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30 December 2023

Amber McLaughlin (1973-2023) convicted of murder

McLaughlin was born in Missouri and given the name Scott. The mother abandoned the child who was placed in the foster care system: one foster parent rubbed feces in his face, and an adoptive father tasered the child. Severe depression resulted in multiple suicide attempts, both as a child and as an adult.

McLaughlin became a registered sex offender in 1992 after a conviction for sexual assault against a 14-year-old girl. In 2003 McLaughlin was arrested for the rape and fatal stabbing of an ex-girlfriend in Earth City, an ex-urb of St Louis, whom he had been stalking. In 2006, the jury found McLaughlin guilty of first-degree murder, but was deadlocked at the punishment phase of the trial. The trial judge intervened and imposed a death sentence. Missouri and Indiana are the only two US states that allow judges make such a decision. 

In 2016, a federal judge ordered a new sentencing hearing after finding that the defense had not used an expert witness on penalty mitigation to discuss the accussed’s mental state after finding that he had falsified data 17 years earlier. In 2021 a three-judge panel of the 8th US Court of Appeals ruled that earlier falsified date was irrelevant, and that the expert should have testified. However, they also found that the testimony was unlikely to change the outcome, and reinstated the death penalty.

On death row at the state prison in Potosi, McLaughlin announced in 2019 that she was trans, and was allowed to transition. She took the name Amber, but her legal name was never changed, nor was she allowed to start on estrogen.

3 January 2023, Amber Mclaughlin was executed by lethal injection.

  • Robert Patrick. “Federal appeals court reinstates death penalty in 2003 St. Louis County rape, murder”. St Louis Post-Dispatch, Aug 18, 2021. Online.
  • Kevin Held. “Missouri executes convicted murderer Amber McLaughlin”. Fox2now, Jan 3, 2023. Online.
  • Riya Teotia. “Who was Amber McLaughlin, the first transgender woman executed in the US? Know about the 2003 case”. Wionews, Jan 04, 2023. Online.
  • Emily Chudy. “Trans prisoner Amber McLaughlin set to be executed today unless governor grants clemency”. PinkNews, Jan 03 2023. Online.



Some sites claim that Amber was the first openly transgender woman executed in the U.S. This of course ignores the many two-spirit shamans executed by white colonialists. It also ignores Frank Spisak executed 17 February 2011.

From arrest to execution was almost twenty years. So in effect McLaughlin served a life sentence in addition to being executed.

In Britain, prior to the abolition of the death penalty, it was judges, not juries, who decided between a life sentence and a death sentence.

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