A transgender woman facing execution in the U.S. has appealed to Missouri’s governor for mercy, citing mental health issues.
Amber McLaughlin, 49, was convicted of the rape and murder of Beverly Guenther, 45, in St. Louis County in 2003. This is the first case of an openly transgender inmate facing the death penalty in the United States.
Federal public defender Larry Komp said, “It’s wrong when anyone’s executed regardless, but I hope that this is a first that doesn’t occur. Amber has shown great courage in embracing who she is as a transgender woman in spite of the potential for people reacting with hate, so I admire her display of courage.”
In their clemency petition, McLaughlin’s lawyers have cited her traumatic childhood and mental health issues, which the jury never heard during her trial.
According to the letter to Governor Parson, a foster parent rubbed feces in McLaughlin’s face when she was a toddler, and her adoptive father tased her. She reportedly attempted suicide multiple times, both as a child and as an adult. The extreme abuse and neglect during childhood resulted in mild neurological brain damage.
The Governor’s Office is reviewing McLaughlin’s request for mercy, according to Parson spokeswoman Kelli Jones.
“These are not decisions that the Governor takes lightly,” she said in an email.
A judge sentenced McLaughlin to death after the jury was unable to decide between death and life in prison without parole. In 2021, a federal appeals court panel reinstated the death penalty.
McLaughlin’s lawyers stated two reasons as to why McLaughlin’s life should be spared. The first reason was the jury’s indecision and the second was McLaughlin’s remorse for the crimes committed.
All capital punishment inmates are imprisoned at Potosi Correctional Center in Missouri. According to McLaughlin’s lawyers, she previously was roommates with another transgender woman but is now in isolation leading up to her scheduled execution date.
McLaughlin is scheduled for execution in Missouri on January 3, 2023.