in a telephone conversation with St. Louis Post-Dispatch On Monday, McLaughlin described his impending execution as “unfortunate.”
“I don’t agree with that,” he said. “People need to know I’m mentally ill.”
The death warrant was issued in the name of Scott McLaughlin, who is being held at the men’s prison in Potosi. McLaughlin has transitioned to a woman on death row in the past few years.
According to the Center Against the Death Penalty, there is no known case of an openly transgender inmate being executed in the United States.
“It’s wrong to execute anyone, but I hope it’s not the first time,” said federal public defender Larry Komp. “Amber has shown great courage in accepting herself as a transgender woman despite the potential for people to react with hate, so I admire her courage.”
In their 27-page apology, McLaughlin’s lawyers noted that the jury never heard about his traumatic childhood and mental health issues, caused in part by brain damage and fetal alcohol syndrome.
According to her letter to Parson, her adoptive parents rubbed feces on her face as a child and her adoptive father, who was a police officer, hit and beat her with a nightstick. He tried to commit suicide several times both as a child and as an adult.
“Amber McLaughlin never had a chance,” the apology said. “The institutions, individuals and interventions that were supposed to protect her failed, and her abusers denied her the care she so desperately needed.”
Parson’s spokeswoman, Kelly Jones, said the governor’s office is reviewing his request for clemency.
“These are not decisions the governor takes lightly,” Jones said in an email.
Judge McLaughlin sentenced McLaughlin to death after the jury could not decide between death or life in prison.
A federal judge in St. Louis ordered a new sentencing in 2016, citing concerns about the effectiveness of McLaughlin’s attorneys and improper jury instructions. But in 2021, a federal appeals court panel reinstated the death penalty.
McLaughlin’s attorneys also cited jury indecisiveness and McLaughlin’s remorse as reasons for Parson’s stay of execution.
Karen Pojmann, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Corrections, said in an email that it had previously killed only one woman.
McLaughlin’s lawyers said he had previously been with another transgender woman but is now living in seclusion until his scheduled execution.
Pojmann noted that 9 percent of Missouri’s prison population is female, and all death row inmates are incarcerated at the Potosi Correctional Center.
“It’s highly unusual for a woman to commit a capital crime like aggravated murder, and it’s even more unusual to rape and kill a woman, as was the case with McLaughlin,” Pojmann said.
Parson has refused to pardon five people executed since becoming governor in 2018. Missouri executed two people this year.