Amber McLaughlin Becomes First Transgender Woman Executed in U.S. After Governor Declines Clemency

Lawmakers and advocates for the abolition of the death penalty had repeatedly called on the Missouri governor to intervene and halt the execution.

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Amber McLaughlin, 49, has been executed in Missouri, despite calls from death penalty abolition advocates and lawmakers for the execution to be halted, marking what’s widely been referred to as the first instance of a transgender woman being put to death in the U.S.

Per a report from the Associated Press, McLaughlin was put to death via lethal injection on Tuesday after her conviction in the 2003 murder of an ex-girlfriend. Notably, and as has been widely pointed out amid the criticism surrounding the execution, a judge handed down the death penalty decision after the jury deadlocked on the sentence following McLaughlin’s murder conviction in 2006.

Earlier on Tuesday, Republican Governor Mike Parson announced that the State of Missouri would carry out the execution, thus denying a request for a 27-page clemency application filed last month that included (per the Death Penalty Information Center) descriptions of childhood trauma and abuse in McLaughlin’s earlier life.

“McLaughlin’s conviction and sentence remains after multiple, thorough examinations of Missouri law,” Parson, who has faced widespread criticism in the past for his stance on capital punishment, said. “McLaughlin stalked, raped, and murdered [Beverly] Guenther. McLaughlin is a violent criminal.”

In late December, two Democratic members of Congress from Missouri—Cori Bush and Emanuel Cleaver II—called on Parson to halt the execution. In a letter to the governor that was also shared publicly, the two lawmakers pointed out that the jury “never heard crucial mental health evidence” during the sentencing phase of McLaughlin’s trial.

“As ordained ministers, we believe in accountability but also the sanctity of life, and do not think these tenets are mutually exclusive,” Bush and and Cleaver wrote. “We must therefore make investments in the social and economic well-being of all people. In order to do so, we must first acknowledge the moral depravity of executions. They are not about justice; they are about who has institutional power and who doesn’t.”

There are currently 27 death penalty states in the U.S. In addition to the basic human rights argument at the center of abolition pushes, carrying out executions is also very costly for involved agencies, thus undermining many arguments in support of its implementation in comparison to alternative methods of punishment.

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