First openly transgender Death Row inmate set to be executed for murder

A Death Row inmate is set to become the first openly transgender woman to be executed in the US despite defense protestations that she endured a difficult childhood.

Amber McLaughlin, 49, will receive the lethal injection on Tuesday (January 3) unless she is granted clemency after she stabbed her ex-girlfriend to death in 2003.

According to McLaughlin's attorney, Larry Komp, there are no court appeals pending, but a clemency request is still being reviewed.

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While growing up, her defence claims that a foster parent rubbed faeces in her face when she was just a toddler, and later, her adoptive father used a stun gun on her,

Her gender dysphoria – a condition often experienced by transgender people, where a person becomes distressed because of a mismatch between the sex they were assigned at birth and their gender identity – was brought up in the request.

"We think Amber has demonstrated incredible courage because I can tell you there's a lot of hate when it comes to that issue," Mr Komp said today (January 2) but added that Amber's gender identity was "not the main focus" of the clemency request, which also made references to McLaughlin's struggles with mental illness and traumatic childhood.

McLaughlin was in a relationship with girlfriend Beverly Guenther before she publicly came out as transgender.

Their relationship eventually turned sour and Guenther, 45, got a restraining order against McLaughlin, who had been following her to her place of work and hiding in the building.

Guenther's neighbours began to worry when she didn't return home after work on the night of November 20, 2003.

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Police went to her office building, where they found a broken knife handle and a trail of blood near her car.

Just a day later, McLaughlin led officers to the site where she had dumped her former lover's body.

In 2006, she was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to die by lethal injection.

Ten years later, in 2016, a court ordered a new sentencing hearing but a federal appeals court panel ultimately reinstated the death penalty in 2021.

According to information gathered from the Death Penalty Information Centre, there are no known cases yet of a transgender prisoner being executed – meaning that McLaughlin will be the first if tomorrow's execution goes ahead.

"It's wrong when anyone's executed regardless, but I hope that this is a first that doesn't occur," Mr Komp previously said,

"Amber has shown great courage in embracing who she is as a transgender woman in spite of the potential for people reacting with hate, so I admire her display of courage."

McLaughlin had a difficult upbringing, her clemency request revealed.

A foster parent rubbed faeces in her face when she was just a toddler, and later, her adoptive father used a stun gun on her, it said.

The petition added that McLaughlin suffers from depression and has attempted suicide on multiple occasions.

But a friend and fellow inmate said McLaughlin blossomed after she started transitioning about three years ago.

Jessica Hicklin, 43, spent 26 years in prison before she was released in January 2022.

Hicklin also started transitioning while in prison mentored fellow transgender inmates, including McLaughlin.

Hicklin said McLaughlin was so shy when she first came into prison, she barely interacted with other inmates.

But when she started transitioning, she turned to Hicklin for help and the pair became friends.

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

"She always had a smile and a dad joke. If you ever talked to her, it was always with the dad jokes."

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