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Amber McLaughlin, first openly transgender woman set to be executed, asks for clemency

Amber McLaughlin, the first openly transgender woman set to be executed, is pleading with Missouri Gov. Mike Parson for clemency, citing mental health struggles.

McLaughlin, who has been undergoing gender transition in prison, is facing a Jan. 3 death row sentence for killing an ex-girlfriend 19 years ago and is prodding Parson to commute the sentence to life in prison because the grand jury never heard testimony on her mental health.

“The governor then considers the matter and makes a decision when he is prepared to do so. These are not decisions that the governor takes lightly and the process is underway as it relates to the execution scheduled for January,” a spokesperson for Parson said, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.


This image provided by the Federal Public Defender Office shows death row inmate Amber McLaughlin. McLaughlin, the first openly transgender woman set to be executed in the U.S., asked Missouri’s Republican Gov. Mike Parson to spare her, on Monday, Dec. 12, 2022.

(Jeremy S. Weis/Federal Public Defender Office via AP)

McLaughlin, previously known as Scott McLaughlin, is currently being detained in protective custody. She was convicted of raping and stabbing ex-girlfriend Beverly Guenther, 45, on Nov. 20, 2003, then dumping the body near the Mississippi River.

The 27-page clemency request for McLaughlin hearkened back to her life as an abused child in the foster system, during which she suffered brain damage and depression. Back in 2006, during the trial, McLaughlin’s attorneys opted not to have a psychiatrist testify because one of their potential witnesses falsified data, per the report. As a result, the jury did not mull through possible mental health evidence.

That jury ultimately deadlocked over a punishment, so the presiding judge opted for capital punishment. From there, a federal judge quashed the death sentence in 2016 before being overruled by a panel in the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals that reinstated it five years later.


“People should know I’m mentally ill,” McLaughlin told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I don’t agree with it. … I’m trying to stay calm.”

Missouri is one of two states where a trial judge can push for the death penalty when a jury is deadlocked, according to the report.

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