You may have heard about the recent execution of Joseph Paul Franklin, the white supremacist serial killer. There were TV and radio news stories about it for various reasons.
Shortly before Franklin being given a lethal injection of pentobarbityal, a district judge issued a stay of execution. But that stay, based upon use of the new drug for the first time, was overturned by a federal appeals court and then upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. So, Franklin was put to death at Bonne Femme, Mo., early on the morning Nov. 20.
Franklin (b. 1950) was executed for the 1977 murder of a man outside a St. Louis synagogue in 1977. Altogether, he had been convicted of eight murders—and had been blamed for 14 others between 1977 and 1980 in what was called “a bid to start a race war.”
In addition to the homicides, Franklin shot and wounded “Hustler” magazine publisher Larry Flynt in March 1978 and then civil rights leader Vernon Jordan in May 1980. Franklin’s execution was in the news in the days before his capital punishment partly because of Flynt, who is now 71.
Flynt, whom I recently saw described as a vulgarian (which seems to be an apt description), is opposed to the death penalty and voiced his objection Franklin’s upcoming execution in the TV interview.
I have had very little respect for Flynt, who has spent most of his life peddling pornography. He began publishing his trashy magazine in 1974. Just four year later he was shot by Franklin, who was incensed by the interracial photos he saw in “Hustler.”
Flynt was left partially paralyzed with permanent spinal cord damage and in need of a wheelchair. An overdose of pain killers caused a stroke; he recovered but has had pronunciation difficulties ever since. That was his condition when I saw him on TV last month.
In that interview he said, “I find it totally absurd that a government that forbids killing is allowed to use that same crime as punishment.”
While I have no sympathy for white supremacist murderers, and while I find Flynt’s career reprehensible, I have to agree with what Flynt said in opposition to Franklin’s execution. What good did it do—especially after all these years?
Franklin was only 27 when he killed the man for whom he was killed—36 years later at the age of 63. He was sentenced to death in Feb. 1997—and then it was 16½ years before he was executed. Why kill him after all that time?
On the night before his execution, supporters of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP) held a candlelight vigil for Franklin on the steps of a church in St. Louis. MADP, whose board includes several religious leaders from various Christian denominations, is scheduled to hold another vigil at noon today in Springfield.
Today’s protest is because the execution of Allen Nicklasson is scheduled for tomorrow (Dec. 11). Nicklasson (b. 1972) also committed a heinous crime and has been on “death row” since 1996. One of his accomplices, Dennis Skillicom, was executed in May 2009—the 67th in Missouri since 1989.
In interviews just a day or two before his execution, Franklin emphasized that he no longer has feelings of hate for blacks or Jewish people. He also said, “I would like to have a chance, though, to make amends for what I've done. I’d like to get out and do a lot of good for people.”
Especially if that was true, his punishment was a crime.