Missouri executed Amber McLaughlin, the first known transgender person in the United States, by lethal injection on Tuesday. McLaughlin was convicted of murder in 2003 and had unsuccessfully petitioned the governor for clemency.
The Missouri Department of Corrections released a statement saying that McLaughlin had been pronounced deceased at 6:51 p.m. In her final statement, which was made public by the prison department, McLaughlin said, “I am sorry for what I did.” “I am a warm and compassionate human being.”
McLaughlin’s execution, the first in the US this year, is unprecedented, the United States already has a very low rate of capital punishment. Just seventeen people have been executed prior to McLaughlin’s execution since the US Supreme Court resumed capital punishment in 1976 following a brief respite.
The non-profit group has verified that McLaughlin is the first 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 filing a plea for clemency.
They argue that McLaughlin deserves leniency since he has demonstrated remorse, has an intellectual handicap, mental health concerns, and a history of childhood trauma and that the jury could not reach a unanimous decision on whether or not to impose the death penalty.
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However, Parson’s office issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the execution would proceed as scheduled. All of Beverly Guenther’s loved ones “deserve peace,” the statement said. Parson vowed that the state of Missouri would “bring justice” by carrying out McLaughlin’s punishment in accordance with a court ruling.
McLaughlin’s federal public defender Larry Komp and the governor’s office have stated that McLaughlin, who is referred to in court documents as Scott McLaughlin, was kept at Potosi Correctional Center near St. Louis, which housed male inmates because he had not initiated a legal name change or transition.
McLaughlin had been convicted of murder and rape Court documents show that in November 2003, McLaughlin was found guilty of murdering Guenther and given the death penalty.
Guenther had an order of protection against McLaughlin after McLaughlin was arrested for burglarizing Guenther’s home, and the two had previously been in a relationship before Guenther’s murder.
Court documents state that many weeks later, while the injunction was still in effect, McLaughlin waited for Guenther outside the victim’s place of employment. 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.
Amber McLaughlin, 49, was put to death for the murder of Beverly Guenther.
— NPR (@NPR) January 4, 2023
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 could not agree on a sentence. In order to recommend or apply the death penalty, juries in most US jurisdictions where it is legal must reach a unanimous verdict.
If a jury is unable to reach a unanimous verdict, the judge must decide between life in prison without the possibility of parole and the death penalty in accordance with state law. The judge who presided over McLaughlin’s trial sentenced him to death.
McLaughlin’s lawyers contended that if Parson granted mercy, he would not be going against the will of the jury by imposing a life sentence on their client because the jury could not reach a unanimous decision on the death penalty.
However, in their plea to the governor, McLaughlin’s legal team cited that as just one of several reasons why Parson should grant her clemency. The counsel for McLaughlin brought up her mental health issues and her history of childhood trauma in 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 ended up in the foster care system, where she experienced “feces forced into her face” at one of her homes.
According to the petition, she was subjected to further violence and suffering in the future, including being tased by her adoptive father, and struggled with despair, resulting in “several suicide attempts.” According to the appeal, the jury that convicted McLaughlin of Guenther’s murder did not hear any expert testimony about her mental condition at the time of the crime.
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 especially 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 lawyers failed to offer that expert testimony during the trial. The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit eventually reversed that decision.
McLaughlin’s execution, according to her attorney Komp’s previous comments to CNN, “would highlight all the inadequacies of the legal system and would be a grave injustice on a number of levels.”
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. For her, “anything that could go wrong, did go wrong.”
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