A US marine choked a trans woman to death while serving in the Philippines. He wants early release from prison for ‘good behaviour’

Jennifer Laude Joseph Scott Pemberton

A former United States marine who brutally choked a trans woman to death will remain in prison in the Philippines after a last-minute U-turn.

Joseph Scott Pemberton was convicted of killing Jennifer Laude in 2015, and was handed a sentence of between six and 12 years in prison, which was later reduced to 10.

There was outcry on Tuesday (September 1) when the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court granted an appeal made by Pemberton which would have seen him released early due to a “good conduct time allowance”.

However, officials have since confirmed that the killer will remain in prison in the Philippines while the government and Laude’s family appeal the decision, according to the Associated Press

Harry Roque, a spokesman for the president who previously served as a lawyer for the Laude family, said Pemberton could not be released until the court hears the family’s appeal. The government will be making a separate appeal in the case.

“Our compatriot cannot be treated like an animal then the punishment will just be a tap on the wrist,” Roque said at a press conference Thursday (September 3).

Pemberton was charged with Laude’s murder after her strangled dead body was discovered by a cleaner in a hotel room in 2014. In December 2015, he was found guilty of the lesser charge of homicide and was ordered to pay $85,000 in damages to her family.

The killer has been serving his sentence in a compound that is guarded by both Philippine and American security staff at the military camp in Manila.

The location of his detention was agreed under the Visiting Forces Agreement, despite calls from Laude’s family that he serve his sentence in a standard prison, and complaints that visiting US troops are given special treatment under the agreement.

Roque said that Pemberton’s “light penalty” showed that “Americans continue to have the status of conquering colonials in our country.”

Trans people in the Philippines have protested the decision to release Pemberton, with many turning up outside the Department of Justice holding “trans lives matter” signs.

Pemberton was participating in joint exercises between American and Philippine military personnel in 2014 when he choked Laude to death.

 Her death shocked the LGBT+ community, with activists later staging a “National Day of Outrage” along with a candlelit vigil across four cities.