Transgender woman’s scheduled execution would be US first

Jan 1, 2023, 5:04 PM | Updated: Jan 2, 2023, 9:11 pm
FILE - This photo provided by the Federal Public Defender Office shows death row inmate Amber McLau...

FILE - This photo provided by the Federal Public Defender Office shows death row inmate Amber McLaughlin. Unless Missouri Gov. Mike Parson grants clemency, McLaughlin will become the first transgender woman executed in the U.S. She is scheduled to die by injection Tuesday, Jan 3, 2022, for stabbing to death a former girlfriend, Beverly Guenther, in 2003. (Jeremy S. Weis/Federal Public Defender Office via AP, File)

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

              FILE - This photo provided by the Missouri Department of Corrections shows Amber McLaughlin. Unless Missouri Gov. Mike Parson grants clemency, McLaughlin will become the first transgender woman executed in the U.S. She is scheduled to die by injection Tuesday, Jan 3, 2022, for stabbing to death a former girlfriend, Beverly Guenther, in 2003. (Missouri Department of Corrections via AP, File)
            
              FILE - This photo provided by the Federal Public Defender Office shows death row inmate Amber McLaughlin. Unless Missouri Gov. Mike Parson grants clemency, McLaughlin will become the first transgender woman executed in the U.S. She is scheduled to die by injection Tuesday, Jan 3, 2022, for stabbing to death a former girlfriend, Beverly Guenther, in 2003. (Jeremy S. Weis/Federal Public Defender Office via AP, File)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Unless Missouri Gov. Mike Parson grants clemency, Amber McLaughlin, 49, will become the first transgender woman executed in the U.S. She is scheduled to die by injection Tuesday for killing a former girlfriend in 2003.

McLaughlin’s attorney, Larry Komp, said there are no court appeals pending.

The clemency request focuses on several issues, including McLaughlin’s traumatic childhood and mental health issues, which the jury never heard in her trial. A foster parent rubbed feces in her face when she was a toddler and her adoptive father used a stun gun on her, according to the clemency petition. It says she suffers from depression and attempted suicide multiple times.

The petition also includes reports citing a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, a condition that causes anguish and other symptoms as a result of a disparity between a person’s gender identity and their assigned sex at birth.

“We think Amber has demonstrated incredible courage because I can tell you there’s a lot of hate when it comes to that issue,” her attorney, Larry Komp, said Monday. But, he said, McLaughlin’s sexual identity is “not the main focus” of the clemency request.

Parson’s spokesperson, Kelli Jones, said the review process for the clemency request is still underway.

There is no known case of a transgender inmate being executed in the U.S. before, according to the anti-execution Death Penalty Information Center. A friend in prison says she saw McLaughlin’s personality blossom during her gender transition.

Before transitioning, McLaughlin was in a relationship with girlfriend Beverly Guenther. McLaughlin would show up at the suburban St. Louis office where the 45-year-old Guenther worked, sometimes hiding inside the building, according to court records. Guenther obtained a restraining order, and police officers occasionally escorted her to her car after work.

Guenther’s neighbors called police the night of Nov. 20, 2003, when she failed to return home. Officers went to the office building, where they found a broken knife handle near her car and a trail of blood. A day later, McLaughlin led police to a location near the Mississippi River in St. Louis, where the body had been dumped.

McLaughlin was convicted of first-degree murder in 2006. A judge sentenced McLaughlin to death after a jury deadlocked on the sentence. A court in 2016 ordered a new sentencing hearing, but a federal appeals court panel reinstated the death penalty in 2021.

One person who knew Amber before she transitioned is Jessica Hicklin, 43, who spent 26 years in prison for a drug-related killing in western Missouri in 1995. She was 16. Because of her age when the crime occurred, she was granted release in January 2022.

Hicklin, 43, began transitioning while in prison and in 2016 sued the Missouri Department of Corrections, challenging a policy that prohibited hormone therapy for inmates who weren’t receiving it before being incarcerated. She won the lawsuit in 2018 and became a mentor to other transgender inmates, including McLaughlin.

Though imprisoned together for around a decade, Hicklin said McLaughlin was so shy they rarely interacted. But as McLaughlin began transitioning about three years ago, she turned to Hicklin for guidance on issues such as mental health counseling and getting help to ensure her safety inside a male-dominated maximum-security prison.

“There’s always paperwork and bureaucracy, so I spent time helping her learn to file the right things and talk to the right people,” Hicklin said.

In the process, a friendship developed.

“We would sit down once a week and have what I referred to as girl talk,” Hicklin said. “She always had a smile and a dad joke. If you ever talked to her, it was always with the dad jokes.”

They also discussed the challenges a transgender inmate faces in a male prison — things like how to obtain feminine items, dealing with rude comments, and staying safe.

McLaughlin still had insecurities, especially about her well-being, Hicklin said.

“Definitely a vulnerable person,” Hicklin said. “Definitely afraid of being assaulted or victimized, which is more common for trans folks in Department of Corrections.”

The only woman ever executed in Missouri was Bonnie B. Heady, put to death on Dec. 18, 1953, for kidnapping and killing a 6-year-old boy. Heady was executed in the gas chamber, side by side with the other kidnapper and killer, Carl Austin Hall.

Nationally, 18 people were executed in 2022, including two in Missouri. Kevin Johnson, 37, was put to death Nov. 29 for the ambush killing of a Kirkwood, Missouri, police officer. Carman Deck was executed in May for killing James and Zelma Long during a robbery at their home in De Soto, Missouri.

Another Missouri inmate, Leonard Taylor, is scheduled to die Feb. 7 for killing his girlfriend and her three young children.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

The logo for OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, appears on a mobile phone, in New York, Tuesday, Jan. 31...
Associated Press

Cheaters beware: ChatGPT maker releases AI detection tool

ChatGPT is trying to curb its reputation as a freewheeling cheating machine with a new tool that can help detect if artificial intelligence wrote it
18 hours ago
This undated photo provided by the Grants Pass Police Department shows Benjamin Obadiah Foster. Fos...
Rio Yamat and Andrew Selsky, Associated Press

Oregon kidnap suspect previously released the day he arrived at prison

A man at the center of an intense police search in Oregon after a violent kidnapping last week was released from custody in October 2021 by Nevada prison officials on the same day he was transferred to the state's custody to serve a kidnapping sentence, authorities said Monday.
18 hours ago
FILE - Military personnel watch as Air Force One, with President Donald Trump aboard, prepares to d...
Associated Press

Boeing bids farewell to an icon, delivers last 747 jumbo jet

SEATTLE (AP) — Boeing bid farewell to an icon on Tuesday, delivering its final 747 jumbo jet as thousands of workers who helped build the planes over the past 55 years looked on. Since its first flight in 1969, the giant yet graceful 747 has served as a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft capable of […]
18 hours ago
seattle police...
Associated Press

Name of Seattle officer in crash that killed woman released

Police have released the name of a Seattle police officer who was responding to a medical call when his patrol SUV hit and killed a 23-year-old Jaahnavi Kandula last week in a city crosswalk.
18 hours ago
FILE - This undated photo provided by the Grants Pass Police Department shows Benjamin Obadiah Fost...
Associated Press

Police: Man wanted in Oregon kidnapping spotted walking dog

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — A man at the center of an intense police search in Oregon after a violent kidnapping last week was seen walking a dog Tuesday in the same part of southern Oregon where the victim had been tortured, police said. Benjamin Obadiah Foster, 36, was spotted Tuesday morning in the Grants […]
18 hours ago
The coffin of Cardinal George Pell is carried into St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, Wednesday, Feb. ...
Associated Press

Police ask court to ban protest at Cardinal’s Sydney funeral

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Mourners paid their respects to Cardinal George Pell who lay in state in a Sydney cathedral on Wednesday as police sought a court order to prevent protesters from disrupting his funeral. Pell, who was once the third-highest ranking cleric in the Vatican and spent more than a year in prison before […]
18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Transgender woman’s scheduled execution would be US first