CA affirms conviction of Pemberton for killing Jennifer Laude

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US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton (L), Jennifer Laude

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 10) — The Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed a lower court's conviction of the U.S. Marine found guilty of killing Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude.

The CA, in the decision received on Monday, said Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton's plea to reverse the guilty verdict was junked because his defense lacked merit.

Laude was found lifeless — neck blackened with strangulation marks and head rammed into a toilet — n a motel room in Olongapo City after a night out with Pemberton on October 11, 2014

Read: Revisiting the Jennifer Laude murder case

The Olongapo Regional Trial court handed out a guilty verdict against Pemberton for homicide - not murder - on December 1, 2015. He was sentenced to six to 12 years of imprisonment. His prison sentence was reduced to to a maximum of 10 years from the initial 6-12 years imprisonment.

Related: Joseph Scott Pemberton found guilty of homicide

In Pemberton's appeal, he said the RTC "seriously erred" in his conviction because the cause of Laude's death is doubtful.

Pemberton also appealed the court erred in ruling that he is not entitled to the justifying circumstance of self-defense.

Pemberton reiterated he was molested by Laude who pretended to be a woman, that prompted him to "defend his dignity and self-respect."

The CA decision said Pemberton is "clutching at straws" in claiming that the circumstances surrounding the incident made him realize he was in grave danger. It said Pemberton's defense, that he was in impending grave danger, was "more imaginary than real."

The appeals court explained, the alleged molestation done to Pemberton cannot be considered as unlawful aggression.

"Unlawful aggression is defined as an actual physical assault or at least a threat to inflict real imminent injury, upon a person," the court said.

But it pointed out that Pemberton did not suffer any injury when he allowed Laude to perform oral sex on him.

Related: Pemberton admits choking Laude

CA: Pemberton's homicide conviction 'undeniable'

It ruled that the conviction of Pemberton for homicide is undeniable.

It added the trial court correctly ruled that Pemberton should be sentenced to suffer the indeterminate sentence of six years of prision correccional as minimum and 10 years of prision mayor as maximum in light of "two mitigating circumstances which effectively reduced the penalty prescribed by Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code (reclusion temporal) by one degree."

Exemplary damage, civil indemnity, moral damages

The Court of Appeals Special Sixteenth Division upheld awarding P30,000 exemplary damage to the family of Laude.

"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," the court ruled.

CA said the exemplary damage was awarded to deter other persons from committing a similar offense, and to respect Filipinos regardless of their sexual orientation.

Aside from exemplary damage, the appeals court also upheld the award of more than four million pesos to the heirs of Laude for loss of earning capacity.

It also affirmed the P155,250 actual damages as Laude's family was able to prove through actual receipts of damages representing autopsy, wake, and burial expenses.

CA also ordered Pemberton to pay Laude's family P75,000 as civil indemnity and P75,000 as moral damages. This was an increase from the initial P50,000 that Pemberton was ordered to pay Laude's family.

Laude family lawyer Virgie Suarez said they welcome the appeals' court decision, and expect the defense will file a motion for reconsideration.