The first openly transgender person was executed for a murder committed in 2003 in Missouri

The first openly transgender person was executed for a murder committed in 2003 in Missouri

Published on January 04, 2023 22:12 PM by Sally Harbor

Amber McLaughlin, the maiden transgender to be executed in the US, was convicted of murder in 2003 and unsuccessfully petitioned the governor for clemency. On Tuesday, she was put to death by lethal injection in Missouri.

According to a written statement from the Missouri Department of Corrections, McLaughlin was pronounced deceased at 6:51 pm.

McLaughlin expressed regret in her last statement, which the department of prisons made public. I am a type of compassionate person.  

The execution of McLaughlin, the first this year in the US, is remarkable because it is already uncommon for women to be put to death in this country. Before McLaughlin's execution, just 17 people had been executed since 1976, when the US Supreme Court restored the death penalty after a temporary suspension, according to the Death Sentence Information Center. The non-profit organization acknowledged McLaughlin as the first openly transgender death row inmate in the nation.

49-year-old McLaughlin and her legal team had petitioned Republican Governor Mike Parson for clemency, pleading with him to commute her death sentence. They assert that McLaughlin has demonstrated real remorse and has battled an intellectual handicap, mental health problems, and a history of childhood trauma, keeping aside the fact that the jury is not in terms  of the death penalty.

However, Parson's office said in a statement on Tuesday that the execution would go according to schedule. The statement read that Beverly Guenther's family and loved ones "deserve peace."

According to Parson, the State of Missouri will enforce the Court's order and implement McLaughlin's punishment.

McLaughlin, who is identified as Scott McLaughlin in court records, had not asked for a legal rebranding or transition and was being held at the Potosi Correctional Center outside of St. Louis since he was on death row, according to his federal public defender Larry Komp and the governor's office.

McLaughlin had been found guilty of rape and murder

(Image Credits: Live 5News)

According to court documents, McLaughlin was given the death penalty for the murder of Guenther in November 2003.

The two were dating before the killing, but their relationship ended, and Guenther had a protection order against McLaughlin after she was arrested for breaking into Guenther's home.

A few weeks later, when the injunction was still in force, according to court documents, McLaughlin waited for Guenther outside the victim's place of business. Blood splatters in the parking lot and in Guenther's truck were used as evidence by the prosecution throughout the trial that McLaughlin repeatedly stabbed and sexually assaulted Guenther.

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

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

Missouri does not need a jury to unanimously vote to recommend or inflict the capital penalty, unlike the majority of US states that do. State law stipulates that when a jury cannot reach a verdict on the death sentence, the judge must choose between the death penalty and the possibility of parole for life in prison. McLaughlin was given a death sentence by the trial court.

McLaughlin's counsel contended that if Parson had granted mercy, he wouldn't have violated the jury's verdict because the panel could not reach a consensus on the death penalty.

However, the petition delivered to the governor stated that Parson should pardon McLaughlin on several other grounds.

In addition to the jury being divided, McLaughlin's counsel emphasized that she had a history of childhood trauma and mental health issues. The petition claims that McLaughlin has a borderline intellectual handicap and has been "universally diagnosed with brain damage as well as foetal alcohol syndrome."

According to the petition, McLaughlin was "abandoned" by her mother and put into the foster care system. 

The petition claimed that she endured additional trauma and abuse, including being tased by her adoptive father and battling despair that resulted in "several suicide attempts."

The petition claimed that McLaughlin's jury was not presented with expert testimony regarding her mental state at the time of Guenther's murder. That testimony, according to her attorneys, could have tipped the balance in favour of a life sentence by bolstering the defense's list of mitigating circumstances and refuting the prosecution's assertion that McLaughlin acted with the depravity of mind, that her deeds were particularly heinous or "wantonly vile," which was the only aggravating circumstance the jury discovered.

According to court records, a federal judge overturned McLaughlin's death sentence in 2016 owing to ineffective representation, citing her trial attorneys' inability to offer that expert testimony. But the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals later overturned that decision.

According to her attorney Komp, McLaughlin's death "would expose all the flaws of the legal system and would be a great injustice on many levels."

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