ST. LOUIS (AP) — Amber McLaughlin, 49, will be the first transgender woman to be put to death in the U.S. if Missouri Gov. Mike Parson doesn’t pardon her. She will be killed by injection on Tuesday for killing an ex-girlfriend in 2003.
Larry Komp, McLaughlin’s lawyer, said there are no pending court appeals.
The request for clemency focuses on a number of things, such as McLaughlin’s hard childhood and mental health problems that the jury never heard about at her trial. The clemency petition says that a foster parent rubbed poop in her face when she was a toddler and her adoptive father used a stun gun on her. It says she has depression and has tried to kill herself more than once.
The petition also has reported a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, which is a condition that causes pain and other symptoms when a person’s gender identity doesn’t match the gender they were given at birth.
Larry Komp, her lawyer, said Monday, “We think Amber has shown a lot of courage because I can tell you there’s a lot of hate around that issue.” But he said McLaughlin’s s*xuality is “not the main point” of the request for clemency.
Kelli Jones, who works as a spokesperson for Parson, said that the request for clemency is still being looked at.
The anti-execution Death Penalty Information Center says that no transgender inmate has ever been put to death in the United States. A friend in prison says that McLaughlin’s personality grew as she became a woman.
McLaughlin had a girlfriend named Beverly Guenther before he became a woman. Court records say that McLaughlin would go to the suburban St. Louis office where 45-year-old Guenther worked and sometimes hide inside the building. Guenther got a restraining order against him, and sometimes police officers walked her to her car after work.
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When Guenther didn’t come home the night of November 20, 2003, her neighbors called the police. When police went to the office building, they found a bloody trail and a broken knife handle near her car. The next day, McLaughlin led police to where the body had been dumped in St. Louis, near the Mississippi River.
In 2006, McLaughlin was found guilty of first-degree murder. After the jury couldn’t agree on a sentence, a judge gave McLaughlin the death penalty. In 2016, a court ordered a new sentencing hearing, but in 2021, a federal appeals court panel brought back the death penalty.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) January 2, 2023
Jessica Hicklin, now 43 and spent 26 years in prison for a drug-related killing in western Missouri in 1995, knew Amber before she changed. She was 16 years old. Due to her age at the time of the crime, she was set free in January 2022.
Hicklin, who was 43 when he went to prison, started transitioning while he was there. In 2016, he sued the Missouri Department of Corrections to get around a rule that said inmates who hadn’t been getting hormone therapy before they went to prison couldn’t get it while they were there. She won the lawsuit in 2018 and now helps other transgender prisoners, like McLaughlin, figure out how to be themselves.
Even though they were locked up together for about 10 years, Hicklin said that McLaughlin was so shy that they rarely talked. But when McLaughlin started to change about three years ago, she went to Hicklin for help with things like counseling for her mental health and getting used to making sure she was safe in a maximum-security prison where most of the people there were men.
Hicklin said, “There is always paperwork and red tape, so I took the time to teach her how to file the right things and talk to the right people.”
In the process, they became friends.
“We would get together once a week for what I called “girl talk,” ” said Hicklin. “She was always happy and made dad jokes. She always told dad jokes when you talked to her.”
They also talked about the problems a transgender person faces in prison for men, such as how to get feminine items, deal with rude comments, and stay safe.
Unless Missouri Gov. Mike Parson grants clemency, Amber McLaughlin will become the first openly transgender woman executed in the U.S. She is scheduled to die by injection Tuesday for killing a former girlfriend in 2003. https://t.co/IWTApxyNSt
— The Associated Press (@AP) January 2, 2023
Hicklin said that McLaughlin still had doubts, especially about her health.
Hicklin said, “Definitely a weak person.” “I’m very worried about being attacked or hurt, which is more likely to happen to trans people in the Department of Corrections.”
Bonnie B. Heady was the only woman put to death in Missouri. She was put to death on December 18, 1953, for taking a 6-year-old boy hostage and killing him. Heady and the other kidnapper and killer, Carl Austin Hall, were put to death in the same gas chamber.
In 2022, 18 people were put to death across the country, including two in Missouri.
Kevin Johnson, 37 years old, was put to death on November 29 for killing a Kirkwood, Missouri, police officer in a surprise attack.
Carman Deck was put to death in May for killing James and Zelma Long at their home in De Soto, Missouri, during a home invasion. Leonard Taylor, who killed his girlfriend and her three young children, is set to die in Missouri on February 7.
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Jessa Martin is the author of Nogmagazine, A professional in writing by day, and novelist by night, she received her bachelor of arts in film from Howard University and her master of arts in media studies from the New School. A Brooklyn native, she is a lover of naps, cookie dough, and beaches, currently residing in the borough she loves, most likely multitasking.