First US execution of transgender woman could take place Tuesday

First US execution of transgender woman could take place Tuesday
Amber McLaughlin

“Unless Missouri Gov. Mike Parson grants clemency, Amber McLaughlin, 49, will become the first openly transgender woman to be executed in the U.S. She is scheduled to die by injection Tuesday for killing a former girlfriend in 2003,” reports Newsmax:

Larry Komp, McLaughlin’s attorney, said there are no court appeals pending. The clemency request focuses on several issues, including McLaughlin’s traumatic childhood and mental health issues, which the jury never heard in her trial….It says she suffers from depression and attempted suicide multiple times.

There is no known case of an openly transgender inmate being executed in the U.S., according to the anti-execution Death Penalty Information Center….

Before transitioning, McLaughlin was in a relationship with girlfriend Beverly Guenther. McLaughlin would show up at the suburban St. Louis office where the 45-year-old Guenther worked, sometimes hiding inside the building, according to court records. Guenther obtained a restraining order, and police officers occasionally escorted her to her car after work.

Guenther’s neighbors called police the night of Nov. 20, 2003, when she failed to return home. Officers went to the office building, where they found a broken knife handle near her car and a trail of blood. A day later, McLaughlin led police to a location near the Mississippi River in St. Louis, where the body had been dumped. McLaughlin was convicted of first-degree murder in 2006.

Executions can save lives by deterring people from committing murder. Several studies found that the death penalty deters killings of innocent people. As the Associated Press noted in 2007, “Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University. (Other studies have estimated the deterred murders per execution at three, five, and 14).”

The death penalty can also prevent additional murders by prisoners serving life sentences. A murderer already serving a life sentence has nothing to lose from killing his cellmate if there is no death penalty. For example, serial killer Darren Witmer killed over and over again due to the lack of an effective death penalty in his state: He “killed two senior citizens, got locked up,” killed his cellmate, and then “tried to extort money” from a 75-year old widow. He had nothing to lose from committing these additional crimes.

Being executed is the only thing that stops some murderers from killing again. At the age of 19, while on parole, Kenneth McDuff shot and killed two boys, then killed a girl after raping her and torturing her with burns and a broomstick. He was given a life sentence without parole. But years later, at the age of 43, he was paroled. He then  murdered additional women — as many as 15 women in several states. He was sentenced to death for one of those additional killings in 1992, and finally executed in 1998, making it impossible for him to kill anyone else.

Critics of life imprisonment without parole and the death penalty tend to argue that “most people age out of criminal behavior over time,” with some falsely claiming that inmates can safely be released by their late 30s. For example, the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, which is funded by left-wing billionaire George Soros‘ foundation, has mistakenly claimed that keeping people in prison who were sent there “a decade ago” does “very little, if anything, to maintain safety.”

But experts say many inmates do not age out of crime, even when they reach their 50s or 60s. In February 2022, the U.S. Sentencing Commission issued a report finding that over an eight-year period, violent offenders returned to crime at a 63.8% rate. Even among those over age 60, 25.1% of violent offenders were rearrested. Many inmates commit more murders or violent crimes decades after they were first sent to prison. At the age of 76, Albert Flick murdered a woman, stabbing her at least 11 times while her twin children watched. He had earlier spent 25 years in prison for killing his wife by stabbing her 14 times in front of her daughter.

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department. Hans writes for and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” Contact him at


For your convenience, you may leave commments below using Disqus. If Disqus is not appearing for you, please disable AdBlock to leave a comment.