Amber McLaughlin becomes first openly transgender woman executed in the U.S.

Amber McLaughlin died by lethal injection Tuesday night in Missouri, becoming the first openly transgender woman to be executed in the U.S.  McLaughlin began her transition in prison about three years ago.  According to the Missouri Department of Corrections, McLaughlin was pronounced dead at 6:51 p.m. at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre.  McLaughlin said in a final, written, statement before her execution: “I am sorry for what I did. I am a loving and caring person.”  She spoke quietly with a spiritual adviser at her side as the fatal dose of pentobarbital was injected, and was pronounced dead a few minutes later.

McLaughlin, 49, was convicted of first-degree murder in 2006 in the killing of Beverly Guenther. A judge sentenced her to death after the jury deadlocked on its sentencing decision. McLaughlin was in a relationship with Guenther before her transition, but Guenther obtained a restraining order after McLaughlin showed up multiple times at her workplace. Officers found a broken knife handle near Guenther’s car and a trail of blood at her office building on the night of Nov. 20, 2003. McLaughlin later led police to a location near the Mississippi River in St. Louis where Guenther’s body had been dumped.

McLaughlin’s appeal for clemency argued that the jury did not listen to issues about her mental health, including details of traumatic childhood abuse and depression. Advocates also expressed concern that McLaughlin would be put to death even though the jury was not unanimous. However, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson denied clemency Tuesday, saying in a statement on Tuesday: “McLaughlin is a violent criminal. Ms. Guenther’s family and loved ones deserve peace. The State of Missouri will carry out McLaughlin’s sentence according to the Court’s order and deliver justice.” 

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