On January 3, Amber McLaughlin was executed by the state of Missouri for the 2003 murder of Beverly Guenther.
In 2003, Amber McLaughlin was named Scott McLaughlin, a swarthy muscular man with thick dark hair who could easily have been mistaken for a roofer or a contractor.
Guenther, 45, was McLaughlin’s girlfriend for nine short months in 2002 before the romance went sour. After the breakup, McLaughlin burglarized Guenther’s house and began stalking her, causing Guenther to seek a protection order against her former boyfriend. Forty-eight hours after seeking that order, McLaughlin ambushed Guenther in the parking lot at her place of employment.
McLaughlin raped Guenther in the parking lot then stabbed her repeatedly after which he loaded her body in his car and dumped it in a river.
A mug shot taken at the time of McLaughlin’s arrest in 2003 shows an uncanny resemblance to a mug shot taken in 1992 when he was arrested for the sexual assault of a 14 year old girl. In the 1992 mug shot, McLaughlin has a mullet haircut that frames a rather “drugged out” skinny face.
At McLaughlin’s trial in 2006, the jury came up with a guilty verdict but was deadlocked on whether to impose the death penalty. Because of the deadlock, a judge sentenced McLaughlin to death. Only two states, Indiana and Missouri, give judges the option to impose the death penalty if a jury is deadlocked.
As murder cases go, this case would have faded into the obscurity of “There are a thousand stories in The Naked City,” had Scott McLaughlin not transitioned into Amber McLaughlin while in prison.
That’s when the magic happened.
The desire to transition, despite McLaughlin’s confession that he always liked dressing up in his mother’s clothes when he was a boy, was a brilliant move on his part considering the progress that identity politics had made on the world stage.
This move, no doubt, was inspired and aided by McLaughlin’s prison friendship with Jessica Hicklin, a transgender activist inmate who was sentenced to 26 years because of a drug-related killing.
Hicklin’s activism included successfully suing the Missouri Department of Corrections because of its policy of prohibiting hormone therapy for inmates who weren’t receiving it prior to incarceration.
McLaughlin, who never received hormone treatments, began his transition from ‘Scott’ 3 years ago. Ironically, it was at this time that the case began to get attention but only because of one simple fact: if the execution was carried out, Amber McLaughlin would be the first transgender women to receive the death penalty.
This alone, in today’s woke culture, is worth a zillion newspaper headlines.
It was certainly a ‘People’ Magazine moment. As a photo-op transgender “first,” the story also captured the attention of AOL News because less than a week before the execution, McLaughlin’s photo was front and center on AOL, next to news items about Joe Biden and President Zelensky’s latest war demands.
The Washington Post, for instance, posited:
“Though gender identity is not central to the case, Amber McLaughlin’s execution would mark the first time a transgender convict has been put to death in the United States. It will also be the first execution of 2023.”
The Post went on to explain that, despite the media focus on McLaughlin’s gender identity, “McLaughlin’s co-counsel said that it has nothing to do with the 27-page petition for executive clemency that her lawyers submitted to [Missouri Governor] Parson on her behalf. “
A lot of progressive-liberal news sources emphasized that McLaughlin’s plea for clemency had nothing to do with “her transgender status,” while emphasizing how hard a life McLaughlin had before turning into a murderer, and that because of that hard life—mental illness, suicide attempts, etc.—there ought to be a clemency option.
But McLaughlin’s gender identity is what got the case to go viral in the first place.
AOL News kept her picture front and center for days, with the headline: ‘U.S. may execute its first openly transgender woman,’ as if the execution was somehow bogus or immoral, because, you know, it we’re talking about a transgender woman.
Identity politics has become so powerful that a mere photograph—McLaughlin in long braided hair looking as innocent as a Disney fairy tale damsel– can communicate a powerful editorial slant, while the newsprint underneath the image concentrates on McLaughlin’s astonishingly difficult life, all of it written to evoke sympathy.
Consider the views of Alexis Vida Rangel, policy counsel at the National Center for Transgender Equality, who stated that “recognizing that Amber McLaughlin is a transgender woman is essential to recognizing her humanity, especially in the context of a criminal legal system and a society that continues to deny the humanity and basic rights of our community.”
The basic rights of what community—murderers?
Ethan Rice, a senior attorney with Lambda Legal, stated,
“Lambda Legal is outraged and deeply saddened by the execution of Amber McLaughlin by the state of Missouri. Amber is the first known openly transgender woman to be executed in the United States. A first that should never have happened…”
Democrats Cori Bush and Emanuel Cleaver, both members of Congress representing Missouri, came out against the execution, stating:
“Ms. McLaughlin’s cruel execution would mark the state’s first use of the death penalty on a woman since the US Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, and even worse it would not solve any of the systemic problems facing Missourians and people all across America…”
The only ‘systemic problem’ here, Congressmen, is the power of identity politics.
McLaughlin’s lawyers stressed McLaughlin’s difficult childhood: Abandoned by his mother, foster care, an adoptive father who tortured him with a taser gun, brain damage, fetal alcohol syndrome, depression, suicide attempts.
Yet sketchy, difficult childhoods are not uncommon among major murderers.
Charles Manson was bullied and raped by a male student, then raped again in jails and juvenile facilities. John Wayne Gacy was constantly berated and belittled by his father. Aileen Wuornos, who killed 7 men from 1989-1990, experienced sexual abuse at the hands of her grandfather, had a baby by her brother, and a grandmother who threw her out of the house at 14.
The first (biological) woman to be executed by the state of Missouri was Bonnie B. Heady in December 1953 for kidnapping and killing a six-year-old boy.
Unfortunately, we don’t know anything about Heady’s childhood – whether she was abused, raped, beaten by relatives or made to take cold showers in the dead of winter. Things that would naturally cause some people to kidnap and murder a six-year-old.
“I am sorry for what I did. I am a loving and caring person,” were reportedly McLaughlin’s last words as the fatal dose of pentobarbital was administered.
Agree with the death penalty or not – as has often been said, ‘God’s mercy is not Man’s justice’ – but identity politics should never be part of the clemency process, something left-wing oriented publications like The Guardian and some Democrat politicians just don’t seem to get.