Closed, terminated: SC accepts Pemberton’s withdrawal of homicide conviction appeal

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 24 2020 03:23 PM

MANILA – US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton has withdrawn his appeal of his homicide conviction over the killing of transgender woman Jennifer Laude in 2014.

In a resolution dated June 15 released on Monday, the Supreme Court Third Division granted the motion and declared the case closed and terminated.

“The Court grants petitioner’s urgent motion for leave to withdraw (petition for review on certiorari dated October 5, 2017) dated June 2, 2020 stating that after thoughtful consideration of the circumstances of this case, he 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 said.

An Olongapo court convicted Pemberton in December 2015 for the death of Laude, who was found dead inside a motel room in Olongapo City in October 2014. 

Initial investigation showed Laude’s neck was pressed down on the toilet seat while her head was shoved into the toilet bowl.

A forensic pathologist testified that the transgender died of asphyxia.

Pemberton admitted in court to hitting and choking Laude after finding out that she had male genitals but insisted he did not kill her. 

He also claimed he defended his honor and his life and suggested that a third person might have killed Laude.

But the Olongapo court dismissed his defenses, saying there was no unlawful aggression on the part of Laude and the defense failed to establish somebody else knew about Laude’s whereabouts. 

Pemberton was sentenced to up to 12 years in prison – later reduced to 10 years – and ordered to pay Laude’s heirs more than P4 million in damages.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the verdict in 2017.

Pemberton has been detained in Camp Aguinaldo but the Philippines’ decision to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement in February led to discussions over his custody.

The decision to abrogate the VFA was suspended in June 2, the same day Pemberton withdrew his appeal.

The 2014 Laude slay case has stoked anger over the presence of US soldiers on Philippine soil 2 decades since the Philippine Senate voted to shut US bases in the country.
The two countries are close military allies but that relationship has soured under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s push for an “independent foreign policy” and pivot to China.