MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A U.S. Marine charged with murder testified in court Monday that he choked a Filipino unconscious during a fight that started when he discovered that she was a transgender woman in a Philippine motel but stressed that he didn't kill her, his lawyer said.
Lawyer Rowena Flores said her client, Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton, told the court in Olongapo city, northwest of Manila, that Jennifer Laude was unconscious but breathing when he left her in the shower of a motel, where they checked in to have sex after meeting in a bar in October last year. Pemberton panicked after seeing her unconscious and left.
Defense lawyers would present evidence that raises the possibility that someone else killed Laude, according to Flores.
Flores quoted Pemberton as telling the court that he felt he'd been raped.
Flores said defense lawyers would prove Laude was a sex worker who deceived Pemberton, a man she said went to church regularly and had never been involved in a fight until he scuffled with Laude, whose former name was Jeffrey.
Philippine government prosecutors charged Pemberton with murder in December, saying there was "probable cause" that he killed Laude in an attack that "was aggravated by treachery, abuse of superior strength and cruelty." Laude had apparently been strangled and drowned in a toilet bowl.
The case reignited a debate over custody of American military personnel accused of crimes. Washington agreed to move him last year from a U.S. warship to the Philippine military's main camp in metropolitan Manila, where he remained under American custody with an outer ring of Filipino guards.