First execution of an openly transgender woman in U.S. history.
Unless Missouri Governor Mike Parson grants a pardon, Amber McLaughlin will die of a lethal injection for killing an ex-girlfriend in 2003.
Prior to the transition, the 49-year-old was in a relationship with girlfriend Beverly Guenther.
But when things turned sour, according to court records, McLaughlin began stalking Ms Guenther, going to the office where she worked and sometimes hiding inside, killing her in November 2003.
She was convicted of first degree murder in 2006 and sentenced to death.
The court ordered a new sentencing hearing in 2016, but a federal appeals court panel reinstated the death penalty in 2021.
The clemency plea on McLaughlin’s behalf focuses on several issues, including her traumatic childhood and mental health issues, which the jury never heard of during her trial.
Her adoptive parent wiped her face with feces when she was a toddler, and her adoptive father used a stun gun on her, according to the petition.
She says she suffers from depression and has attempted suicide many times.
The petition also includes reports citing a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, a condition that causes distress and other symptoms as a result of a discrepancy between a person’s gender identity and the sex assigned to them at birth.
McLaughlin’s lawyer, Larry Komp, said: “We think Amber showed incredible courage because I can tell there’s a lot of hate on this issue.”
However, he added that McLaughlin’s sexual identity “wasn’t the primary focus” of the clemency request.
There is no known case of a transgender prisoner lost in the US earlier, according to the Center for Death Penalty Information against executions.
Prison friend Jessica Hicklin says she saw McLaughlin’s personality blossom during her gender transition.
Although they were trapped together for about a decade, she said McLaughlin was so shy that they rarely interacted. But as McLaughlin began to change about three years ago, she turned to Hicklin for guidance on things like mental health counseling and getting help keeping her safe in the male-dominated maximum security prison.
“Definitely a sensitive person,” said Hicklin. “She has a definite fear of being mugged or harassed, which is more common with transgender people in the Department of Corrections.”
The only woman executed in Missouri was Bonnie Heady, who was sentenced to death in 1953 for kidnapping and killing a six-year-old boy.
Heady was executed in the gas chamber, side by side with fellow kidnapper and killer Carl Austin Hall.
Nationwide, 18 people were executed in 2022, including two in Missouri.
Kevin Johnson, 37, was sentenced to death for killing a Missouri police officer in an ambush. Carman Deck was executed in May for killing James and Zelma Long during a robbery at their home in De Soto, Missouri.
Another Missouri prisoner, Leonard Taylor, is due to die in February for killing his girlfriend and her three young children.