Case of US Marine Found Guilty of Killing a Trans Woman in the Philippines Closed After Six Years

Joseph Scott Pemberton withdrew an appeal of his conviction after a lengthy court battle.
August 24, 2020, 9:35am
joseph pemberton
Joseph Scott Pemberton (C) is escorted by a policeman and bureua of corrections personnel shortly after arriving at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on December 1, 2015. Photo: AFP PHOTO / BULLIT MARQUEZ / POOL

A U.S. Marine who was found guilty of killing a 26-year-old transgender woman named Jennifer Laude in 2014 has withdrawn an appeal of his conviction in the Philippine Supreme Court

Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton was convicted of homicide in 2015 for killing Laude at a motel in the Philippine city of Olongapo, which is located near a former U.S. Navy base. Pemberton was 19 at the time of the crime. 


Pemberton was initially sentenced to six to 12 years in prison, but in 2016 his sentence was reduced to a maximum of 10 years in jail. He was also required to compensate Laude’s heirs

Pemberton filed an appeal of his conviction in 2017. He filed a motion for leave to withdraw his petition for appeal on June 2, 2020.

In a notice, the Philippines Supreme Court Third Division said that it granted Pemberton’s “urgent motion for leave to withdraw” his petition for appeal on June 15, 2020.

“After thoughtful consideration of the circumstances of this case, [Pemberton] has decided to withdraw his petition, both as to criminal and civil aspects of the appeal, and accepts and recognizes that his conviction will become final and executory,” the court wrote. 

jennifer laude

Gender rights activists and students gather at the University of the Philippines in Manila on October 9, 2015. Photo: AFP PHOTO / Jay DIRECTO JAY DIRECTO / AFP

The court added that with its decision, the case was considered “closed and terminated.”

A 2014 autopsy found that Laude died from “asphyxia by drowning.”

According to Associated Press, Pemberton had claimed that Laude molested him in a motel room and that he did not intend to kill her. However, physical evidence refuted his claim. 

At the time of the killing, Pemberton’s unit was in the Philippines for a joint training exercise, according to

Laude’s death renewed calls for the termination of the decades-old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the U.S. and the Philippines, which allows U.S. troops to operate in the region.

In February, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration had notified Washington that it was ending the VFA, but in June, Duterte walked back on the decision “in light of political and other developments in the region.”