Trans prisoner Amber McLaughlin set to be executed today unless governor grants clemency

A graphic showing US trans prisoner Amber McLaughlin wearing a white t-shirt and looking towards the camera. In the background there is a faded trans flag with a shadow of prison bars cast over it and another image of Amber McLaughlin looking to the left

The first openly trans prisoner in the United States is set to be executed in Missouri on Tuesday (3 January) for murdering a woman in 2003. 

Amber McLaughlin, 49, will be executed for killing her former girlfriend, 45-year-old Beverly Guenther, unless the state’s governor grants her clemency.

McLaughlin’s attorneys wrote to governor Mike Parson in December petitioning for clemency, stating she has expressed remorse, and noting she has been diagnosed with brain damage and foetal alcohol syndrome. 

NBC News reported that before the murder, McLaughlin would show up at Guenther’s workplace, sometimes hiding inside the building, leading Guenther to obtain a restraining order against McLaughlin.

On 20 November 2003, Guenther’s neighbours reportedly called the police when she did not return home at night. Her body was later found when McLaughlin led officers to where she had dumped her. 

McLaughlin was convicted of first-degree murder in 2006, with a judge sentencing her to death. She is currently being held in a prison which houses male inmates.

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Jessica Hicklin, a trans inmate who befriended McLaughlin in prison and has since been released, described her as “vulnerable” due to being held in a maximum-security prison dominated by male inmates. 

“Definitely a vulnerable person,” she told NBC News. “Definitely afraid of being assaulted or victimised, which is more common for trans folks in the Department of Corrections.”

Potosi Correctional Center in Missouri
McLaughlin is housed at Potosi Correctional Center in Missouri. (Google Maps)

McLaughlin’s petition for clemency contained details of childhood abuse her attorneys claimed were not presented to the jury at the time of her trial. 

According to the petition, McLaughlin was “abandoned” by her mother during childhood and placed into the foster care system. The application goes on to highlight abuse and trauma McLaughlin suffered in foster homes, and claims that she was tased by her adoptive father.

Due to her difficult upbringing, she reportedly battled depression which led to “multiple suicide attempts,” the petition says.

McLaughlin’s federal public defender, Larry Komp, told CNN her execution “would highlight all the flaws of the justice system and would be a great injustice on a number of levels”.

“It would continue the systemic failures that existed throughout Amber’s life where no interventions occurred to stop and intercede to protect her as a child and teen,” he said.

“All that could go wrong did go wrong for her. There is so much hate out there, so I admire Amber and her courage as she embraces who she is.”

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