MANILA, Philippines — A U.S. Marine has asked a Philippine court to reverse his conviction in the killing of a transgender Filipino and sought a bail and a reduction of his six to 12-year jail term.
Attorney Rowena Garcia-Flores said she would insist that her client, Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton, did not kill Jennifer Laude in a motel room after they met in a disco bar in October 2014 and that his sentence should be eased because he surrendered to authorities.
In December a judge convicted Pemberton of homicide, not the more serious charge of murder as prosecutors sought — and sentenced him to a lighter jail term than what the victim’s family sought.
The regional trial court judge in Olongapo city, northwest of Manila, said she downgraded the charge because conditions such as cruelty and treachery had not been proven.
The court will start to hear Pemberton’s appeal on Thursday.
“We’re going for an acquittal,” Flores said by telephone. “He defended himself because he felt he was being conned but he did not kill Laude.”
In case the court upholds the conviction, Flores said she and other defense lawyers asked the court to consider easing Pemberton’s sentence because he surrendered to authorities and that he had “no intention to commit so grave a wrong.”
The killing sparked anger in the Philippines and reignited calls by left-wing groups and nationalists for an end to America’s military presence in the country at a time when the U.S. is reasserting its dominance in Asia and Manila has turned to Washington for support amid an escalating territorial dispute with China.