A Philippine court has entered a not guilty plea on behalf of a US marine charged with the murder of a transgender woman.
Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, 19, refused to enter a plea at his arraignment on Monday (23 February).
The courthouse in Olangapo is a five-minute drive from the motel where Jennifer Laude, 26, was found dead in October last year.
The Massachusetts teen, who was in the Philippines for joint military exercises, was the last person to be seen with her.
Pre-trial hearings will continue this week and the is trial will start in mid-March.
Prosecutors will present at least 18 witnesses at the trial, including a friend of Laude who checked into the motel with her and Pemberton, one of the lawyers representing the victim’s family, Virginia Suarez, told reporters.
‘We have enough evidence and witnesses to convict Pemberton of murder,’ Suarez said.
‘He was the only person with Jennifer the entire time she was in the hotel and the cashier can attest to that.’
Last month, the justice ministry denied Pemberton’s request that his charge be reduced to homicide due to lack of probable cause.
Murder carries a maximum 40-year prison sentence in the Philippines, compared to 20 years for homicide.