Missouri Has Executed the First Known Transgender Person for a Crime Committed in 2003

Missouri Has Executed the First Known Transgender Person: Amber McLaughlin, who was convicted of murder in 2003 and had unsuccessfully petitioned the governor for a pardon, was executed by lethal injection in Missouri on Tuesday, making her the first openly transgender person to be executed in the United States.

According to a written statement released by the Missouri Department of Corrections, “McLaughlin was declared dead at 6:51 p.m.”

In her final statement, McLaughlin said, “I am sorry for what I did,” and the department of corrections made it public. That’s me: a compassionate and caring human being.

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The execution of McLaughlin is unprecedented, and not just because it is the first in the United States this year; women are rarely put to death in the United States. According to the Death Sentence Information Center, prior to McLaughlin’s execution, just 17 people had been executed since 1976, when the US Supreme Court reintroduced the death penalty after a brief hiatus. As reported by the non-profit group, McLaughlin is the first out transgender person to be put to death in the USA.

McLaughlin, 49, and her lawyers had asked Republican Governor Mike Parson to reduce her execution sentence by submitting a clemency petition. According to his supporters, McLaughlin deserves a second chance because he has shown remorse, has an intellectual disability, and has dealt with mental health issues and a history of childhood trauma, all of which contributed to the jury’s inability to reach a unanimous decision on the death penalty.

However, Parson’s office released a statement on Tuesday saying that the execution would go on as scheduled. Beverly Guenther’s loved ones “deserve peace,” the message reads.

Parson vowed that the state of Missouri would “bring justice” by carrying out McLaughlin’s punishment in accordance with a court ruling.

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According to federal public attorney Larry Komp and the governor’s office, McLaughlin, who is referred to in court filings as Scott McLaughlin, was confined with male offenders at Potosi Correctional Center outside St. Louis because he had not initiated a legal name change or transition.

McLaughlin’s record included murder and rape convictions

According to court records, in November of 2003, McLaughlin was found guilty of murdering Guenther. After breaking up and McLaughlin being jailed for burglarizing Guenther’s home, Guenther obtained an order of protection against her.

Missouri Has Executed the First Known Transgender Person
Missouri Has Executed the First Known Transgender Person

According to court documents, McLaughlin waited for Guenther outside the victim’s place of employment a few weeks later, while the injunction was still in effect. At trial, prosecutors maintained that blood spatters in the parking lot and in Guenther’s truck were evidence that McLaughlin had repeatedly stabbed and raped Guenther.

According to the court records, McLaughlin was found guilty by a jury of first-degree murder, forcible rape, and armed criminal action.

However, the jury couldn’t agree on a sentence.

Missouri is unusual among US states that have the capital penalty in that it does not require a unanimous jury recommendation or sentence of execution. If a jury cannot reach a unanimous decision on whether or not to impose the death penalty, the judge must make the ultimate decision between life in prison without the possibility of parole and execution. McLaughlin was sentenced to death by the judge who presided over his trial.

McLaughlin’s lawyers contended that Parson wouldn’t be going against the decision of the jury by granting clemency because the jury deadlocked on a death sentence.

However, the petition presented to the governor by McLaughlin’s legal team included other reasons why Parson should grant her pardon.

McLaughlin’s counsel brought to her mental health issues and her history of childhood trauma addition to the deadlocked jury. According to the petition, McLaughlin has been “universally diagnosed with brain damage and fetal alcohol syndrome” and “consistently classified with borderline intellectual disability.”

According to the petition, McLaughlin’s mother “abandoned” her and she was placed in the foster care system, where she “had feces forced into her face.”

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According to the petition, she was subjected to further acts of violence and trauma, including being tased by her adoptive father, and struggled with despair, making “several suicide attempts.”

According to the appeal, McLaughlin’s mental state at the time of Guenther’s murder was not presented to the jury. Her lawyers claimed that testimony could have swayed the jury in favor of a life sentence by bolstering the mitigating factors cited by the defense and disproving the prosecution’s claim that McLaughlin acted with the depravity of mind, that her actions were particularly brutal or “wantonly vile.” This was the only aggravating factor the jury found.

According to court documents, in 2016, a federal judge revoked McLaughlin’s death sentence owing to ineffective counsel since her attorneys failed to offer that expert testimony during the trial. However, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals later reversed that decision.

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Executing McLaughlin “would reveal all the inadequacies of the justice system and would be a grave injustice on a number of levels,” her attorney Komp previously told CNN.

As Amber’s psychologist, Komp explained, this “would continue the systemic failures that existed throughout her childhood,” in which no interventions took place to stop and intercede to protect Amber as a kid and teen. Everything bad that might have happened to her did.

Frequently asked questions

How many people have been executed in Missouri since 1976?

The 90th Execution
Since 1976, when capital punishment was reintroduced in the United States, Missouri has carried out 90 executions. Find out more about the judicially executed here.

Is the death penalty legal in Missouri?

Missouri, a state in the United States, was the first to utilize hanging as a method of capital punishment in 1810. There were 285 lynchings between 1810 and 1965. Between 1976 and 1988, there were zero executions, whereas 91 people were put to death between 1989 and 2021. The practice of fatal gas inhalation lasted from 1937 to 1987.

Who was the last person executed in Missouri?

Amber McLaughlin, according to The Associated Press, was put to death in Missouri on Tuesday. According to the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center, McLaughlin, 49, will be the first person executed in the United States in 2023 and the first openly transgender person to be executed in the country.

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