Who Was Amber McLaughlin? Missouri Inmate Becomes First Openly Transgender Woman to be Executed in US

Amber McLaughlin, a woman inmate in Missouri, became the first openly transgender person executed in the United States. She began transitioning about three years ago at the state prison in Potosi.

McLaughlin died by lethal injection on Tuesday after Missouri Governor Mike Parson declined a clemency request which cited her traumatic childhood and mental health issues. The jury never heard of these issues during her trial.

In her final statement, McLaughlin said she was sorry for what she did. "I am a loving and caring person," she said. With a spiritual adviser at her side, she breathed heavily, shut her eyes and was pronounced dead.

Amber McLaughlin
Amber McLaughlin became the first openly transgender person executed in the US. Federal Public Defender Office

Convicted of Murder

The 49-year-old was convicted of killing Beverly Guenther in November 2003. Guenther, who was McLaughlin's former girlfriend, was raped and stabbed to death in St. Louis County. Investigating officers found a broken knife handle near Guenther's car and a trail of blood. A day later, McLaughlin led the police to a location near the Mississippi River in St. Louis, where the body had been dumped. Investigators said Guenther had been raped and stabbed repeatedly with a steak knife.

McLaughlin was sentenced to death for the first-degree murder in 2006 after a jury was deadlocked on her sentence. Her clemency request highlighted the trauma she faced in childhood, including brain damage from fetal alcohol exposure, traumatic brain injuries as a child, abuse she suffered, including tasing and beating, at her adoptive home. It's said that her foster parent rubbed feces in McLaughlin's face when she was a toddler and her adoptive father used a stun gun on her. Moreover, McLaughlin's attorneys outlined her diagnosed depression and suicide attempts.

Death Penalty Reinstated

A new sentencing hearing was ordered by the court in 2016. In this hearing the court heard about McLaughlin's mental health but the federal appeals court panel reinstated the death penalty in 2021.

She was among the few women who have been scheduled for execution since the practice was reinstated in the US in the 1970s. According to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, of the 2,414 people on death rows nationwide as of April 1, 2022, 50 were women. The anti-execution Death Penalty Information Center stated that there are no previous cases highlighting the execution of an openly transgender woman.