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Transgender woman’s scheduled execution would be US first

st. Louis — Unless Missouri Gov. Mike Parson grants a pardon, Amber McLaughlin, 49, will become the first openly transgender woman to be executed in the United States for murdering her ex-girlfriend in 2003.

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

The clemency request focused on several issues jurors hadn’t heard about at her trial, including McLaughlin’s traumatic childhood and mental health issues. Her foster mother rubbed feces on her face when she was a toddler, and her adoptive father used a stun gun on her.

The petition also includes a report citing a diagnosis of gender identity disorder, a condition that causes distress and other symptoms as a result of a mismatch between gender identity disorder and the gender assigned at birth.

Amber’s attorney, Larry Comp, said Monday, “I think Amber has shown incredible courage because I can tell you there is a lot of hate around this issue.” “Not the main focus”.

Parson’s spokesperson Kelly Jones said the review process for the pardon request is still ongoing.

According to the Anti-Execution Death Penalty Information Center, there are no known instances of openly transgender inmates being executed in the United States. Friends in prison say they saw McLaughlin’s personality blossom during his sex change.

Before transitioning, McLaughlin was in a relationship with his girlfriend Beverly Gunther. Court records show that McLaughlin appeared at the office in the St. Louis suburb where Gunther, 45, was working, sometimes hiding inside the building. Gunther obtained her restraining order, and police officers occasionally escorted her to her car after work.

On the night of November 20, 2003, when Mr. Guenther was unable to return home, neighbors called the police. Officers went to the office building and found a broken knife handle and blood stains near her car. The next day, McLaughlin led police to a site near the Mississippi River in St. Louis where the bodies were dumped.

McLaughlin was convicted of first-degree murder in 2006. In 2016, the court ordered a new sentencing hearing, but a federal appeals court panel has reinstated his death penalty for 2021.

The person who knew Amber before she made the transition was Jessica Hicklin, 43, who spent 26 years in prison in 1995 for a drug-related murder in western Missouri. she was 16 years old. January 2022.

Hicklin, 43, began the transition while in prison, suing the Missouri Department of Corrections in 2016 to challenge policies banning hormone therapy for inmates who had not received hormone therapy before incarceration. I was. She won her lawsuit in 2018 and has become a mentor to other transgender inmates, including McLaughlin.

Though imprisoned together for about ten years, Hicklin said McLaughlin was very shy and rarely interacted. But when McLaughlin began the transition about three years ago, she sought guidance on issues such as her mental health counseling and help ensuring her safety inside a male-dominated, high-security prison. Asked and consulted Hicklin.

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

In the process, a friendship was forged.

“We would sit down once a week and have what I call girl talk,” Hicklin said. If I ever did, it was always my dad’s joke.”

They also discussed the challenges transgender inmates face in male prisons, such as how to obtain women’s items, how to deal with rude comments, and how to ensure safety.

Hicklin said McLaughlin remained insecure, especially about her well-being.

“Definitely a vulnerable person,” Hicklin said.

The only woman to be executed in Missouri was Bonnie B. Headey, who was put to death for the kidnapping and murder of a six-year-old boy on December 18, 1953. Headey was executed in the gas chamber alongside another kidnapper and murderer, Carl Austin Hall.

Nationwide, 18 people will be executed in 2022, including two in Missouri. Kevin Johnson, 37, was put to death on November 29 for the ambush killing of a police officer in Kirkwood, Missouri. Carmen Dec was executed in May for murdering James and Zelma Long in a robbery at her home in De Soto, Missouri.

Leonard Taylor, another Missouri inmate, is set to die on February 7 after being charged with killing his girlfriend and her three young children.

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