Pemberton admits he choked Laude
OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines—US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton on Monday admitted in court that he choked and killed transgender woman Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in a motel room here on Oct. 11 last year because he found out that his sex partner that night was a man, not a woman, the victim’s lawyer said.
Testifying at the continuation of his murder trial at the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court, Pemberton said he killed Laude to defend himself, said lawyer Harry Roque, lead counsel for the Laude family.
The court has barred reporters from covering the trial but has allowed lawyers of contending parties to provide details of the day’s hearing.
During a break in the trial, Roque told reporters that Pemberton cited suffering from “gay shock syndrome,” also known as “homosexual panic.”
He was referring to a line of defense in some American courts called the “gay panic defense,” which LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) organizations now want to be outlawed in the United States and other countries. Those who make this assertion usually claim they suffered a psychotic break triggered by a revulsion for homosexual advances.
But the homosexual panic defense is not present in Philippine criminal law, Roque said.
Defense lawyer Rowena Flores said Pemberton told the court that he fought with and subdued Laude in self-defense, but denied murdering her.
Pemberton admitted he and Laude fought after oral sex because Laude did not have a female organ, Flores said.
Pemberton, 22 at the time, said Laude, 26, slapped him, causing him to respond “in defense,” Flores said.
“After some time, to subdue Jeffrey, Joseph Scott Pemberton held [Laude’s] head under his armpit. Jeffrey stopped moving. Joseph Scott Pemberton tried to revive [her],” Flores added.
But Flores said Pemberton told the court he left his adversary “alive in the bathroom.”
Citing Pemberton’s account, Roque said the American soldier was outraged when he discovered that Laude had a penis, and had also become fearful that he would be raped by another man.
“He was furious that he was deceived. He felt that he was raped. His testimony was he wanted to grope his partner but he discovered that the latter was not a woman,” Roque said.
Pemberton said these circumstances provoked him into attacking Laude, Roque said.
“We were already expecting from Pemberton’s camp that they would use the gay shock syndrome as their defense,” he said.
Roque, however, cited a study of the American Psychiatric Society that stated that this syndrome was not a scientifically established mental condition.
On Aug. 17, Pemberton’s mother, Lisa, gave the first testimony for the defense, stressing that her son was a good, tolerant man who had gay friends and who has a lesbian sister.
During his testimony, Pemberton also admitted having had a sexual encounter with Laude, saying he joined “two women” at the motel room, who both gave him oral sex.
Roque said Pemberton identified the two women as Laude and a prosecution witness named “Barbie,” another transgender and Laude’s friend. Barbie, however, left the two after the tryst.
Roque said that when Pemberton discovered that Laude was a man when they were about to have sex, “he pushed her and Jennifer fell off the bed.”
Pemberton said Laude retaliated by slapping him, prompting the soldier to punch Laude twice.
Pemberton, Roque said, then held Laude’s neck in an arm lock until she fell unconscious.
“Pemberton said he dragged Jennifer into the bathroom to sprinkle water [on her face, hoping to revive her],” Roque said.
But Pemberton said he could not find water so he left Laude in the bathroom.
Laude was found dead by a motel employee minutes after Pemberton left the establishment.
Roque said Pemberton demonstrated to the court how he held Laude, as well as how he dragged her into the bathroom.
“Pemberton also described the position in which he left Laude on the floor,” he added.
Laude’s mother, Julita, said she was enraged as she listened to Pemberton’s testimony.
“He’s a liar. Why did he have to strangle my child if she just slapped him?” Julita said.
“If he left Jennifer unconscious in the bathroom, why didn’t he ask for help from the bellboy?” she asked.
Roque said the defense would be presenting Dr. Raquel Fortun, a forensic pathologist, as its last witness when the trial continues Tuesday.
Government prosecutors did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Earlier, they said Pemberton and Laude had left a bar in Olongapo and checked in at a nearby motel, where they alleged the American strangled the victim.
Pemberton, who had just taken part in joint US-Philippine military exercises nearby when the alleged murder occurred, was taken to the Olongapo trial court on Monday by an armed escort from his detention cell at Camp Aguinaldo.
He was the second witness for the defense.
His mother, Lisa, took the stand a week ago, when lawyers said she identified letters from family friends and relatives attesting to his good character.
The judicial proceedings are expected to continue until December.–With a report from AFP
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