A Missouri inmate died by lethal injection on Tuesday, to become the first openly transgender person executed in the United States.
Amber McLaughlin’s fate was sealed earlier Tuesday when Missouri Governor Mike Parson denied a clemency request. McLaughlin spoke quietly with a spiritual advisor by his side as the lethal dose of pentobarbital was injected.
McLaughlin breathed heavily several times, then closed his eyes. She was pronounced dead a few minutes later.
“I’m sorry for what I did,” McLaughlin said in a final written statement. “I am a loving and caring person.”
Who is Amber McLaughlin? McLaughlin, 49, was convicted of the November 20, 2003 murder of Beverly Guenther, 45. Guenther, McLaughlin’s former girlfriend, was raped and stabbed to death in St. Louis County. A judge sentenced McLaughlin to death for the murder in 2006 after a jury deadlocked on his sentence.
The gender overview: McLaughlin was one of few women to be executed since the practice was reinstated in the United States in the 1970s. Of the 2,414 people on death row nationwide as of April 1, 2022, 50 were women, according to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. There are no known previous cases in which an openly transgender person has been executed, according to the Anti-Execution Death Penalty Information Center.
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Clemency petition cites traumatic childhood and mental health diagnoses
A petition for clemency filed with Parson on December 12 by McLaughlin’s attorneys sought a life sentence without parole in lieu of a death sentence. The document cites chronic trauma McLaughlin suffered as a child, including brain damage from fetal alcohol exposure, traumatic brain injury as a child, abuse she suffered – including beatings and beatings – in his adoptive home, and his diagnosed depression and suicide attempts as grounds for clemency. .
According to the petition, evidence regarding McLaughlin’s mental health and child abuse was not presented at his original trial in 2006.
In a statement referring to McLaughlin by name and gender identity prior to his transition, Parson confirmed that the state of Missouri will carry out the death penalty.
“Ms. Guenther’s family and loved ones deserve peace,” Parson said. “The State of Missouri will serve McLaughlin’s sentence as ordered by the Court and deliver justice.”
Since Parson took office in June 2018, five executions have taken place in Missouri after he refused to grant clemency in each case, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
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Amber McLaughlin Case Details
McLaughlin began stalking Guenther at his workplace in St. Louis after the couple separated, sometimes hiding inside the building, court records show. Guenther got an injunction as a result.
On November 20, 2003, Guenther’s neighbors called police when she failed to return home, and officers discovered a broken knife handle and a trail of blood near her car in the office building. The next day, McLaughlin led the police to where Guenther’s body had been dumped.
In 2016, a court ordered a new sentencing hearing following the presentation of evidence of McLaughlin’s mental health, but a federal appeals court panel reinstated the death penalty in 2021. The Missouri is one of only two states, along with Indiana, that allows a judge to issue a death sentence rather than a jury.
McLaughlin began his transition about three years ago, according to Jessica Hicklin, a former incarcerated mentor of McLaughlin.
Contributor: Thao Nguyen, USA TODAY; The Associated Press