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Serial killer Joseph Franklin executed
By: The Associated Press and WJAC Web Staff
BONNE TERRE, Mo. --
White supremacist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin has been put to death in Missouri. It was the state's first execution in nearly three years.
The 63-year-old Franklin targeted blacks and Jews in a cross-country killing spree from 1977 to 1980. He was executed Wednesday at the state prison in Bonne Terre for killing Gerald Gordon in a sniper shooting outside a suburban St. Louis synagogue in 1977.
Fifteen years ago, Franklin confessed to murdering a black man and his white teenage girlfriend on the Washington Street Bridge in Johnstown. He is also known as the man who shot Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt.
Franklin's fate was sealed early Wednesday when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal appeals court decision overturning stays granted Tuesday. The rulings lifting the stay were issued without comment.
His attorney, Jennifer Herndon, had launched three separate appeals: One claiming his life should be spared because he is mentally ill; one claiming faulty jury instruction when he was given the death penalty; and one raising concern about Missouri's first-ever use of a new execution drug, pentobarbital.
Franklin was convicted in eight murders altogether, but the Missouri case was the only one resulting in a death sentence. He is suspected in as many as 20 killings targeting blacks and Jews across the country from 1977 to 1980.
Franklin has also admitted to shooting and wounding civil rights leader Vernon Jordan and Flynt, who has been paralyzed from the waist down since the attack in 1978.
Franklin was in his mid-20s when he began drifting across the country. He bombed a synagogue in Chattanooga, Tenn., in July 1977. No one was hurt, but soon, the killings began.
He arrived in the St. Louis area in October 1977 and picked out the Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel synagogue from the Yellow Pages. He fired five shots at the parking lot in Richmond Heights after a bar mitzvah on Oct. 8, 1977. One struck and killed Gordon, a 42-year-old father of three. Franklin got away and his killing spree continued another three years.
Several of his victims were interracial couples. He also shot and killed, among others, two black children in Cincinnati, three female hitchhikers and a white 15-year-old prostitute, with whom he was angry because the girl had sex with black men.
He finally stumbled after killing two young black men in Salt Lake City in August 1980. He was arrested a month later in Kentucky, briefly escaped, and was captured for good a month after that in Florida.
Franklin was convicted of eight murders: two in Madison, Wis., two in Cincinnati, two in Salt Lake City, one in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the one in St. Louis County. Years later, in federal prison, Franklin admitted to several crimes, including the St. Louis County killing and the Johnstown double-slaying. He was sentenced to death in 1997.
In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Monday, Franklin insisted he no longer hates blacks or Jews. While he was held at St. Louis County Jail, he said he interacted with blacks at the jail, "and I saw they were people just like us."
He has made similar statements to other media but has denied repeated interview requests from The Associated Press. Herndon said Franklin's reasoning exemplified his mental illness: Franklin told her the digits of the AP's St. Louis office phone number added up to what he called an "unlucky number," so he refused to call it.