The death of Jennifer Laude occurred on October 11, 2014, in Olongapo, Philippines, when the 26-year-old Filipina trans woman was killed by 19-year-old Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, who claimed to be unaware that Laude was transgender.
Who Is Jennifer Laude ?
Jennifer Laude was born on November 4, 1987 as Jeffrey Laude. At the time of her death at the age of 26, she was engaged to a German national named Marc Sueselbeck. While having a drink with her friend Barbie Gelviro at the Ambyanz Disco in Olongapo City, on October 11, 2014, she met a “white foreigner” and agreed to go with him to a “short time” hotel called the Celzone Lodge. Gelviro went also with her own companion, and the couples went to different rooms. Later that night Laude was found dead.
What Happend To Jennifer Laude ?
Following the death of Laude, Pemberton was detained by the U.S. Navy, first on board his ship and then inside Camp Aguinaldo, the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, located in Quezon City, Metro Manila.
On December 15, 2014, the Olongapo City Prosecutor’s Office of the Philippine Department of Justice found probable cause to charge Pemberton with murder and that day he was charged with murder in front of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 74. The prosecutor decided to pursue murder charges because of the “presence of treachery, cruelty, and abuse of superior strength”. Pemberton appealed the prosecutor’s decision to the Secretary of Justice but that appeal was denied. On February 23, 2015, Pemberton was brought to court in Olongapo and the court entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf. The pre-trial hearings began February 27, 2015. The murder trial began on March 16.
Under the Visiting Forces Agreement, the local courts have one year to complete any legal proceedings.
Lawyers for the Laude family claimed that prosecutor Emilie Fe de los Santos had taken a statement by Laude’s mother that she would not drop the case even if offered a million dollars as a sign that the family was open to a plea bargain, insisting the prosecutor had promoted that idea with defense attorneys.
One of the Laude family’s attorneys, Harry Roque, told the press that he had been barred by Prosecutor de los Santos from the trial. Laude’s family submitted a letter to Department of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima requesting that a new prosecutor be assigned, citing the refusal of de los Santos to work with the family’s private lawyers.
The prosecution rested on June 30, 2015.
Pemberton admitted in court to fighting with Laude, but not to killing her. He claimed he acted in “self-defense” after he discovered Laude was transgender.
On December 1, 2015, the Olongapo Regional Trial Court found Pemberton guilty of homicide, citing mitigating circumstances including Laude not revealing her gender identity, and sentenced him to 6 to 12 years in jail.
In a ruling issued by the Olongapo RTC Branch 74 on March 30, 2016, the court affirmed the conviction of Pemberton, while reducing the maximum sentence to 10 years from the original 12 years and also denying him bail.
On September 2, 2020, Branch 74 of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court granted Pemberton’s partial motion of reconsideration, thereby releasing him from prison. Judge Roline Ginez-Abalde said that Pembertonm then confined at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Custodial Center in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. had already served a jail sentence of ten years, one month, and ten days on account of his accumulated Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA). The Laude camp, opposed the decision, saying, “Pemberton, who lives comfortably and only his liberty is restricted—cannot reasonably and justifiably claim good conduct”.
Harry Roque, who represented the Laude family during the trial and is now the spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte, said Lance Corporal Pemberton’s release showed that the United States still exerted strong influence in the Philippines, its former colony and now a key ally in the Asia-Pacific region.
“As former private prosecutor for the Laude family, I deplore the short period of imprisonment meted on Pemberton, who killed a Filipino under the most gruesome manner,” Mr. Roque said.
The tweeters launched a hashtag #JusticeForJenniferLaude on Twitter to demand the completion of the murderer’s sentence without pressure from the United States.
LOOK: Progressive youth groups pose for a photo with calls condmening the "absolute pardon" given by Duterte to convicted murderer & former US marines officer Joseph Scott Pemberton for killing trans woman Jennifer Laude, September 7.#JusticeForJenniferLaude#DuterteTutaNgKano pic.twitter.com/WX3tiB8sC5— CEGP (@CEGPhils) September 7, 2020