Court of Appeals affirms conviction of Pemberton
US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton killed transgender woman Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in October 2014 “for the puerile reason” that she “pretended to be a woman.”
This was the ruling of the Court of Appeals as it affirmed the guilty verdict handed down on the American serviceman by the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC).
The Court of Appeals’ Special 16th Division thumbed down for lack of merit Pemberton’s claim that he had killed the 26-year-old Laude in self-defense, saying his fear for his safety was “more imaginary than real.”
In upholding the US soldier’s conviction for homicide, the appeals court said Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde of the Olongapo RTC Branch 74 did not err when she ruled that there was no “unlawful aggression” on the part of Laude to justify Pemberton’s actions.
The appeals court also sustained Jabalde’s conclusion that Laude died of drowning.
“Pemberton unabashedly plunged Laude’s head in the toilet for the puerile reason that Laude pretended to be a woman,” the appeals court said in its April 3 resolution, a copy of which was made available to the media on Monday.
“To our mind, placing Laude’s head inside a toilet shows that Pemberton never thought of Laude as a human being, but as a fecal matter due to his sexual orientation,” it said.
The appeals court added: “The only reason why (Pemberton) attacked Laude was that he was furious [with her] for pretending to be a woman, nothing more, nothing less.”
The decision was penned by Associate Justice Marlene Gonzales-Sison with Associate Justices Ramon Cruz and Henri Jean Paul Inting concurring.
The appeals court said the award of P30,000 in exemplary damages to Laude’s family was appropriate “to deter other persons from committing similar offense in the future and to respect Filipino citizens regardless of their sexual orientation.”
It sided with the lower court in ordering Pemberton to indemnify the victim’s family of P4.32 million and to pay for the burial expenses amounting to P155,250.
The appeals court likewise raised from P100,000 to P150,000 the civil indemnity and moral damages due Laude’s relatives.
In Olongapo City, Laude’s relatives had mixed reactions to the Court of Appeals ruling.
Although elated when she learned that Pemberton would remain behind bars, Laude’s mother, Julita, lamented the shortened jail term for the American serviceman that the Olongapo Regional Trial Court handed down in 2015.
“The jail term of 10 years for Pemberton is not enough for the death of my child. But I’m still happy that he (Pemberton) will remain in jail,” Julita told the Inquirer by telephone on Monday.
Judge Jabalde had imposed a 10-year jail term, instead of the maximum 12 years, for Pemberton.
The Laudes said they were also disappointed that the Supreme Court had denied their petition to transfer Pemberton to a regular jail.
Pemberton is being held at a special military facility in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
Virginia Lacsa Suarez, lawyer for the Laude family, described the appeals court ruling as a “victory for the Filipino people.”
“Justice for Jennifer Laude has just been served by the [appeals court]. It was a fight for sovereignty… a battle for independence from the unequal treaty relations and lopsided security agreements like the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement),” Suarez said in a statement.
She said she expected a favorable decision from the appeals court since, she noted, the defense had not offered any new argument.
In junking Pemberton’s appeal, the appeals court gave more weight to the testimony of Laude’s friend, fellow transgender Mark Clarence “Barbie” Gelviro, who had testified that she and the victim performed oral sex on the convict before Laude was found dead on the night of Oct. 11, 2014.
Gelviro’s statements were supported by the testimonies of witnesses Elias Gallamos and Jacinto Miralor, employees of Celzone Lodge, who both told the court that the US serviceman was with Laude moments before her death.
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