U.S. Marine accused of killing Filipina trans woman misses first court hearing

Today, a U.S. Marine suspect subpoenaed by Philippine authorities for the murder a local transgender woman, 26-year-old Jennifer Laude of Olongapo, did not appear in court to face charges. The suspect, identified as U.S. Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton, was expected to appear before prosecutors in Olongapo on Tuesday, along with four witnesses, to determine whether charges would be filed against him in court. Pemberton's lawyer did attend the preliminary hearing, but the four U.S. Marine officers who were witnesses were not present, having already submitted statements that fulfilled their legal obligations, according to the U.S. Embassy. Pemberton's defense has until October 27 to submit a counter affidavit in response to the subpoena.

According to Philippine police and witnesses, Pemberton and Laude met up at a dance club in Olongapo on the night of October 11. Eventually, the two left together and checked into a room at a nearby motel. Staff at the motel reported that 30 minutes later, Pemberton left the room where Laude's body was later found wrapped in a bed sheet in the bathroom. Chief Inspector Gil Domingo said Laude had apparently been drowned in the toilet.  

On Saturday, activists gathered near the USS Peleliu, where Pemberton resides. Many called for the repeal of the Visiting Forces Agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines, which allows the U.S. to retain custody of Pemberton, and carried signs reading, "Justice for Jennifer Laude." If Pemberton is charged and convicted of murder, he could face life in prison.

Several media outlets covering this story have offensively misgendered Laude, referring to her by her birth name and with incorrect pronouns. A transgender person should be referred to by their preferred pronouns and name, and not by the pronouns and name assigned to them at birth. GLAAD has created a guide for reporters covering stories involving transgender victims of crime.

GLAAD will continue monitoring media coverage of this story.