ST. LOUIS, MO — St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigative reporter Jeremy Kohler is reporting that serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin’s execution is stayed by a federal judge. U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey says that the fact that Missouri’s execution drug has changed “does not mean the controversy has.”
Franklin was put on Missouri’s death row for the murder of Gerald Gordon. On October 8, 1977, Franklin was outside the Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel synagogue in St. Louis. Some 200 guests were leaving a bar mitzvah. Franklin had hammered 10-inch nails into a telephone pole to use as a makeshift gun rest for his hunting rifle. As the guests were leaving the synagogue, Franklin fired, killing Gordon in front of his wife and three children.
There would be other victims across the country, including two murders in Utah.
Franklin killed two black men, Ted Fields and David Martin, near Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. Fields and Martin were jogging with two white female friends.
Franklin was convicted of killing Alphonse Manning and Toni Schwean in Madison, Wisconsin, merely because they were an interracial couple.
Franklin confessed to police that college student Rebecca Bergstrom enraged him because she said on spring break, she once dated a Jamaican man. He shot her dead.
In Cincinnati, Franklin had been lying in wait for an interracial couple but 13-year-old Dante Evans and his cousin 14-year-old Darrell Lane came walking down the road. Franklin shot them both from his sniper’s nest, striking them twice to make sure the boys were dead.
Joseph Deters, who prosecuted the Cincinnati case said of Franklin, “He’s just a creep. There’s no other way to describe him. And what he did to those two kids because of the color of their skin is incomprehensible.”
Franklin also wanted to strike high-profile targets, stalking civil rights leader Vernon Jordan Jr. In Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1980, Franklin sat outside Jordan’s hotel and waited. As Jordan returned from an event, Franklin shot him. Jordan was seriously injured but was not killed.
Sickened by Hustler and out for Larry Flynt
But Franklin hoped one of his biggest trophy killings would be Larry Flynt, publisher and founder of Hustler magazine. Flynt’s crime according to Franklin?
“I saw that interracial couple he had, photographed there, having sex,” he says. Franklin is referring to the December 1975 issue of Hustler that featured several photos of a black man with a white woman. “It just made me sick. I think whites marry with whites, blacks with blacks, Indians with Indians. Orientals with orientals. I threw the magazine down and thought, I’m gonna kill that guy.”
On March 6, 1978, Franklin was almost successful. Flynt was in Lawrenceville, Georgia, facing charges of obscenity. As he returned to the courthouse, two shots struck Flynt. Flynt would barely survive, and he was paralyzed from the waist down.
In a strange turn, Larry Flynt has filed a last-minute legal motion with the American Civil Liberties Union to halt Franklin’s impending execution.
Do not confuse this with mercy, Flynt explained to me days before I would meet with Franklin. “The government has no business at all being in the business of killing people,” he said. Flynt is strongly anti-death penalty, pointing out the inmates on death row are “minorities and underprivileged people, not wealthy white kids.”
Flynt believes it’s “much more punishment to put somebody in prison for the rest of their lives than it is to snip their life out in a few seconds with a lethal injection.”
Flynt said he never thinks of Franklin or cares about him, it is merely on principle the publisher is fighting to spare his life.
When I bring up Flynt to Franklin, he breaks into a smile. “My old pal Larry!” he exclaims. “Tell him I appreciate that. Thanks.” He disagrees with Flynt, though, that the death penalty is less punishment than life in prison.
This report contains information compiled from CNN, KTVI and FOX 13 News.