Missouri’s 1st transgender inmate execution

In this handout photo provided by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, San Quentin's death lethal injection facility is shown before being dismantled at San Quentin State Prison on March 13, 2019 in San Quentin, California. California Governor Gavin Newsom announced today a moratorium on California's death penalty. California has 737 people on death row, the largest death row population in the United States. (Photo by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via Getty Images)
Death lethal injection facility is shown. (Photo by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via Getty Images)

OAN Geraldyn Berry
UPDATED 4:04 PM PT – Monday, January 2, 2023

Missouri transgender inmate Amber McLaughlin is set to be the first openly transgender woman to be executed in the United States unless granted clemency by Governor Mike Parson.

The 49-year-old is currently serving time for killing a former girlfriend in 2003 and is scheduled to die by injection on Tuesday. The death warrant had been issued prior to McLaughlin’s transitioning, when she was under the name Scott McLaughlin.

On December 12, the inmate filed a 27-page application for clemency.

The clemency petition focuses on a number of things, including the chaos that was McLaughlin’s upbringing and the mental health problems she acquired as a result. All of which, the jury was never told about during her trial. The request also mentions that McLaughlin has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a condition that causes suffering and other symptoms as a result of a discrepancy between a person’s gender identity and their assigned sex at birth. McLaughlin also mentions that she experiences depression, suicidal thoughts, and other symptoms.

An example is that, included in the petition, McLaughlin claims a foster parent rubbed feces in her face when she was a toddler and her adoptive father used a stun gun on her. 

Several organizations, including seven former Missouri trial and appellate judges and two Missouri members of Congress, have backed McLaughlin’s clemency plea. Some have taken to social media to voice their support.

On December 15, retired Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael A. Wolff, wrote to Governor Mike Parson (R-Miss.) urging him to commute McLaughlin’s sentence to life without parole. They argued in their letter that “Mr. McLaughlin was deprived of his right to a jury.”

“McLaughlin’s jury deadlocked and refused to return a death verdict. Had the mental health evidence that included brain damage been presented, it would have resulted in a life recommendation,” the judges notes.

First-degree murder charges against McLaughlin were upheld in 2006. Upon a jury’s inability to agree on a verdict, the judge sentenced McLaughlin to death. A federal appeals court panel reinstated the death penalty in 2021 after a federal court panel in 2016 ordered a new sentencing hearing.

According to the anti-execution Death Penalty Information Center, there is no known case of an openly transgender inmate being executed in the U.S. before.

Parson spokeswoman Kelli Jones said the Governor’s Office is reviewing her request.