Philippines Deports U.S. Marine Convicted of Killing Trans Woman

The U.S. Marine who was recently pardoned for the 2014 homicide of a transgender woman in the Philippines has been deported from the nation.

Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton was deported back to the U.S. Sunday by the Philippines Bureau of Immigration, which issued a statement saying Pemberton “was a risk to public safety,” CNN reports. Pemberton is “perpetually” barred from returning to the Philippines, added Jaime Morente, commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration. The Marine boarded a military plane bound for the U.S. Sunday morning.

Pemberton was convicted of killing Jennifer Laude, who he had met in October 2014 at a nightclub in Olongapo, near Manila. Pemberton, then 19, took Laude, 26, to a hotel room, where he choked her, breaking her neck. She was found with her head in a toilet. At his trial, Pemberton used a trans panic defense, with his lawyers arguing Laude was responsible for her death because she didn’t disclose to the Marine that she was transgender. The attorneys claimed Laude “raped” Pemberton because she performed oral sex on him, allegedly before he knew she was trans.

He was convicted of homicide, a lesser charge than murder, and sentenced to six to 12 years in prison; that was later reduced to 10 years. A court ordered his release early this month after he had been in custody nearly six years, which included the time between his arrest and conviction. With a “good conduct time allowance,” he had already served the 10-year sentence, the court ruled.

But Laude’s family appealed the decision and blocked his release. The release order also drew objections from LGBTQ+ and other human rights groups, as his original light sentence had. Then Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who is known for his anti-LGBTQ+ stances, pardoned Pemberton a week ago so that he could be released, leading to further criticism. Human rights group Karapatan called the pardon a “despicable and shameless mockery of justice and servility to U.S. imperialist interests,” according to the Associated Press. But a spokesman for Duterte stressed that the pardon did not erase Pemberton’s conviction.

Rowena Garcia-Flores, a lawyer for Pemberton, issued a statement upon his deportation, saying he has spent “much time contemplating the many errors” on his part the night of Laude’s death, the AP reports. “He wishes he had the words to express the depth of his sorrow and regret,” the statement continued. He also expressed his “most sincere sympathy” to Laude’s family.

Virginia Suarez, the Laude family’s lawyer, released a statement wishing Pemberton “peace of mind” and voicing hope that he has learned “the value of life and dignity regardless of gender and nationality.”


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