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Amber McLaughlin: Missouri carries out the first known execution of an openly transgender person for murder in 2003.

Amber McLaughlin: Missouri carries out the first known execution of an openly transgender person for murder in 2003.

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CNN

Missouri carried out the first known US execution of an openly transgender person on Tuesday, when Amber McLaughlinwho was convicted of murder in 2003 and unsuccessfully sought clemency from the governor, was put to death by lethal injection.

“McLaughlin was pronounced dead at 6:51 p.m.,” the Missouri Department of Corrections said in a written statement.

“I am sorry for what I did,” McLaughlin wrote in his final statement, which was released by the Department of Corrections. “I am a loving and caring person.”

McLaughlin’s Execution – the first in the US this year – is unusual: Executions of women in the United States are now rare. Before McLaughlin’s execution, only 17 had been killed since 1976. when the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty after a short stop, acc The Death Penalty Information Center. The nonprofit confirmed that McLaughlin was the first openly transgender person executed in the United States.

McLaughlin, 49, and her lawyers have petitioned Republican Gov. Mike Parson for clemency, asking him to commute her death sentence. In addition to the fact that jurors could not agree on the death penalty, they said, McLaughlin had shown genuine remorse and struggled with an intellectual disability, mental health issues and a history of childhood trauma.

But in a statement Tuesday, Parson’s office said the execution would go ahead as planned. The family and loved ones of her victim, Beverly Gunther, “deserve peace,” the statement said.

“The state of Missouri will serve McLaughlin’s sentence as ordered by the court,” Parson said, “and will serve justice.”

McLaughlin — listed in court documents as Scott McLaughlin — has not initiated a legal name change or transition and, as a death row inmate, was being held at the Potosi Correctional Center near St. Louis, which houses male inmates, McLaughlin federal public defender Larry Comp and told by the governor’s office.

McLaughlin was sentenced to death for Gunther’s murder in November 2003, according to court records.

The two had previously been in a relationship but had separated by the time of the murder, and Gunther had obtained an order of protection against McLaughlin after she was arrested for burglarizing Gunther’s home.

Several weeks later, while the warrant was in effect, McLaughlin waited for Gunther outside the victim’s workplace, court records said. McLaughlin repeatedly stabbed and raped Gunther, prosecutors said during the trial, pointing in part to blood spatter in the parking lot and in Gunther’s truck.

Jurors convicted McLaughlin of first-degree murder, aggravated rape and armed robbery, court records show.

But when it came to a verdict, the jury was deadlocked.

Most US states with the death penalty require the jury to vote unanimously to recommend or impose the death penaltybut Missouri does not. According to state law, in cases where jurors cannot agree on the death penalty, the judge decides between life in prison without parole or death. McLaughlin’s judge imposed the death sentence.

If Parson were to grant clemency, McLaughlin’s attorneys argued, he would not undermine the will of the jury because jurors could not agree on a death sentence.

However, that was just one of several grounds McLaughlin’s attorneys said Parson should pardon her, according to the petition filed with the governor.

In addition to the issue of her deadlock, McLaughlin’s attorneys pointed to her mental health issues as well as a history of childhood trauma. McLaughlin has been “consistently diagnosed with borderline intellectual disability” and “universally diagnosed with brain damage as well as fetal alcohol syndrome,” the petition said.

McLaughlin was “abandoned” by her mother and placed in the foster care system, and during one placement “feces were shoved in her face,” according to the petition.

She later suffered more abuse and trauma, including being hit by her adoptive father, the petition said, and struggled with depression that led to “multiple suicide attempts.”

During McLaughlin’s trial, jurors did not hear expert testimony about her mental state at the time of Gunter’s murder, the petition said. That testimony, her attorneys said, could have tipped the scales toward a life sentence by supporting mitigating factors cited by the defense and refuting the prosecution’s contention that McLaughlin acted with a depraved mind — that her actions were particularly brutal or “senselessly vile” — the jury found only an aggravating factor.

A federal judge in 2016 overturned McLaughlin’s death sentence due to ineffective counsel, court records show, citing her attorneys’ inability to present that expert testimony. However, that decision was later overturned by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

McLaughlin’s execution “would highlight all the flaws in the justice system and would be a great injustice on a number of levels,” Comp, her lawyer, told CNN earlier.

“This will continue the systemic failures that have existed throughout Amber’s life where interventions to stop and step in to protect her as a child and teenager did not happen,” Comp said. “Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for her.”


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