Joseph Paul Franklin (April 13, 1950 – November 20, 2013) was an Americanserial killer. He was convicted of several murders, and given six life sentences, as well as a death sentence. He confessed to the attempted murders of two prominent men: the magazine publisher Larry Flynt in 1978 and Vernon Jordan, Jr., the civil rights activist, in 1980. Both survived their injuries, but Flynt was left permanently paralyzed from the waist down. Franklin was not convicted in either of those cases.
Because Franklin has repeatedly changed his accounts of some cases, officials cannot determine the full extent of his crimes. His claims of racial motivation have been offset by a defense expert witness who testified in 1997 that Franklin was a paranoid schizophrenic who was not fit to stand trial.
Franklin was on death row for 15 years awaiting execution in the state of Missouri for the 1977 murder of Gerald Gordon. He was executed by lethal injection on November 20, 2013.
For much of his life, Franklin was a drifter, roaming up and down the East Coast looking for chances to "cleanse the world" of people he considered inferior, especially blacks and Jews.
July 25, 1977. At 3:17 AM, a trunk load of dynamite is detonated outside the home of Jewish pro-Israel lobbyist Morris Amitay and his family. While the home was severely damaged, all occupants escaped except for their 6 month old beagle. Franklin confessed to the crime years later while in prison. "The Many Trials of a Killer," The Mobile Register October 18, 1988
July 29, 1977: Beth Sholom synagogue in Chattanooga is firebombed. Franklin has confessed to the crime.
October 8, 1977: Franklin hid in long grass behind a telegraph pole at Brith Shalom, a synagogue in Richmond Heights, Missouri, and fired into a group of worshipers with a hunting rifle, killing Gerald Gordon and injuring two others. He confessed to this murder in 1995 and two years later was tried, convicted and sentenced to die.
Franklin claimed that, on March 6, 1978, he used a .44 caliber rifle to ambush Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and his lawyer Gene Reeves in Lawrenceville, Georgia. In his confession, Franklin said this was in retaliation for an edition of Hustler displaying interracial sex.
July 29, 1978: Franklin hid near a Pizza Hut in Chattanooga, and shot and killed Bryant Tatum, a black man, with a 12-gauge shotgun; he also shot Tatum's white girlfriend, Nancy Hilton, who survived. Franklin confessed and pleaded guilty, being given a life sentence, as well as a sentence for an unrelated armed robbery in 1977.
July 12, 1979: Taco Bell manager Harold McIver (27), a black man, was fatally shot through a window from 150 yards (140 m) in Doraville, Georgia. Franklin confessed but was not tried or sentenced for this crime. Franklin said that McIver was in close contact with white women, so he murdered him.
May 29, 1980: Franklin said he shot and seriously wounded civil rights activist and Urban League president Vernon Jordan, Jr. after seeing him with a white woman in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Franklin initially denied any part in the crime and was acquitted, but later confessed.
June 8, 1980: Franklin confessed to killing cousins Darrell Lane (14) and Dante Evans Brown (13) in Cincinnati, Ohio. Waiting on an overpass to shoot a racially mixed couple, he shot the boys instead. He was convicted in 1998 and received two life sentences for these murders.
June 25, 1980: Franklin used a .44 Ruger pistol to kill two hitchhikers, Nancy Santomero (19) and Vicki Durian (26), in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. He confessed to the crime in 1997 to an Ohio assistant prosecutor in the course of investigation in another case; he said he picked up the white girls and decided to kill them after one said she had a black boyfriend. Jacob Beard of Florida, was convicted and imprisoned in 1993 on these charges. He was freed in 1999 and a new trial was ordered based on Franklin's confession.
August 20, 1980: Franklin killed two black men, Ted Fields and David Martin, near Liberty Park located in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was tried on federal civil rights charges as well as state first-degree murder charges.
Conviction and imprisonment
Franklin tried to escape during the judgment of the 1997 Missouri trial on charges of murdering Gerald Gordon. He was convicted of the murder charge. The psychiatrist Dorothy Otnow Lewis, who had interviewed him at length, testified for the defense that she believed that he was a paranoid schizophrenic and unfit to stand trial. She noted his delusional thinking and a childhood history of severe abuse.
In October 2013, Flynt called for clemency for Franklin asserting "that a government that forbids killing among its citizens should not be in the business of killing people itself."
Franklin was held on death row at the Potosi Correctional Center near Mineral Point, Missouri. In August 2013 the Missouri State Supreme Court announced that Franklin would be executed later that year on November 20. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said in a statement that by setting execution dates, the state high court "has taken an important step to see that justice is finally done for the victims and their families".
Franklin's execution was complicated as it took place during a period when various European drug manufacturers refused or objected on moral grounds to having their drugs used in a lethal injection. In response Missouri announced that it would use for Franklin's execution a new method of lethal injection, which used a single drug provided by an unnamed compounding pharmacy.
A day before his execution, U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey (Jefferson City) granted a stay of execution over concerns raised about the new method of execution. A second stay was granted that evening by U.S. District Judge Carol E. Jackson (St. Louis), based on Franklin’s claim that he is mentally incompetent to be executed. An appeals court quickly overturned both stays, and the Supreme Court subsequently rejected final appeals.
An Associated Press news agency journalist said that Franklin swallowed hard as 5g of pentobarbital were administered. It took him 10 minutes to be pronounced dead.
Racist views 'renounced'
In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper published on Monday, November 17, 2013, Franklin said he had renounced his racist views. He said his motivation had been "illogical" and was partly a consequence of an abusive upbringing. He said he had interacted with black people in prison, adding: "I saw they were people just like us."