Missouri Tuesday executed Amber McLaughlin, an openly transgender woman, by lethal injection. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, McLaughlin is the first openly transgender person to be executed in the US. Missouri Governor Mike Parson refused to grant clemency stating, “McLaughlin’s conviction and sentence remain after multiple, thorough examinations of Missouri law. McLaughlin
stalked, raped, and murdered Ms. Guenther. McLaughlin is a violent criminal.”
The clemency petition implored that McLaughlin should be exempted from the death sentence, as she has shown genuine remorse for her actions and she was a victim of a traumatic childhood and mental health issues, including gender dysphoria. She suffered from depression and attempted suicide many times, the petition stated. The petition argued:
Amber McLaughlin never had a chance. She was failed by the institutions, individuals, and interventions that should have protected her, and her abusers obstructed the care she so desperately needed. The abandonment and harm began before she was born. The mental health consequences of FASD, brain damage, and borderline intellectual disability are uncontroverted. All of the essential mental health evidence was never presented to the jury due to the shortcomings of trial counsel, and yet it still deadlocked, not agreeing that death was warranted.
Several advocates against the death penalty came forward in Mclaughlin’s defense, including US Representatives Cori Bush (D-MO) and Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO). The representatives sent a letter to Governor Parson urging him to grant clemency to McLaughlin. They wrote:
As lawmakers, we are committed to building a Missouri that is a beacon of justice, and we strive daily to represent the needs and demands of Missourians in our districts and across the state. For this reason, we are urging you to immediately commute Ms. McLaughlin’s sentence….
After the death sentence was carried out, Bush expressed her condemnation and said, “Capital punishment must be abolished.” The Missouri Democratic LGBTQ Caucus also released a statement condemning the death sentence and imploring Governor Parson to grant clemency to the accused.
McLaughlin transitioned while in prison. In 2006, she was charged with the first-degree murder, rape and aggravated assault of Beverly Guenther, her girlfriend at the time, and sentenced to death. The ruling was overturned in 2016, but a federal appeals court reinstated the death penalty in 2021.