Transgender woman will be US first to be executed if last minute appeal fails
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If a last-minute appeal for mercy is not granted, Amber McLaughlin will be the first openly transgender woman to be executed in the US.
The 49-year-old was convicted of first-degree murder back in 2006 after raping and killing her girlfriend, 45-year-old Beverly Guenther, three years prior in St Louis County, Missouri.
A jury was deadlocked on a sentence, but the judge ruled for McLaughlin to receive the death sentence.
Although a new sentencing hearing was ordered in 2016, the penalty was reinstated in 2021 and a date has been set – Tuesday, January 3, 2023.
She is set to be executed by lethal injection in a matter of hours unless the last-minute request for mercy is granted.
The clemency petition, directed at Missouri Governor Mike Parson, details the abusive childhood McLaughlin faced which caused her to suffer from mental health issues and trauma.
"Amber McLaughlin never had a chance," her attorney Larry Komp states. "She was failed by the institutions, individuals and interventions that should have protected her, and her abusers obstructed the care she so desperately needed."
The petition goes on to describe how the convict suffered from the effects of fetal alcohol exposure before being abandoned by her birth parents and suffering abuse including having faeces rubbed in her face and being tasered by her foster father.
"The consequences of the ever-present trauma and neglect, as well as her cognitive impairments impacted McLaughlin on a daily basis," adds Komp.
"McLaughlin wrestled with depression leading to multiple suicide attempts as a child and an adult."
Furthermore, the document highlights McLaughlin's 'genuine remorse' for what happened.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there is no known case of an openly transgender prisoner being executed in America.
Although the 49-year-old's request for clemency is not related to her transition, which she started from behind bars in 2018, Komp said in a separate statement that he hopes McLaughlin doesn't become a 'first'.
"It’s wrong when anyone’s executed regardless, but I hope that this is a first that doesn’t occur," he said.
"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."
As for whether the application will be granted is yet to be seen. Kelli Jones, a spokesperson for Parson, told AP News that the review process for the request is still underway.
Regarding the reason McLaughlin is on death row in the first place, court documents show Guenther had obtained a restraining order against the inmate after they were in a relationship together.
McLaughlin would sometimes hide inside her work building, and police would have to escort Guenther to her car on occasion.
The 49-year-old later sexually assaulted and fatally stabbed Guenther, with the police being alerted to the crime on November 30, 2003, when the victim's neighbours noticed she had failed to come home.
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