May 21, 2018
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Missouri executes white supremacist serial killer after U.S. Supreme Court clears way

HANDOUT | Reuters
HANDOUT | Reuters
Joseph Paul Franklin is seen in a booking photo provided by the Missouri Department of Corrections taken April 27, 2007.
By Eric M. Johnson, Reuters

Missouri serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin was executed by lethal injection early Wednesday, according to local media reports, after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for him to be put to death.

Franklin, 63, was pronounced dead at 6:17 a.m. CT at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, according to reports by KDSK TV in St. Louis. Officials with the Missouri Department of Corrections and Missouri Attorney General’s Office did not return calls seeking confirmation.

A federal appeals court on Tuesday reversed two stays of execution for a convicted serial killer, possibly clearing the way for him to be put to death in Missouri.

Franklin, an avowed white supremacist, was convicted and sentenced to death for killing one man and wounding two outside a St. Louis-area synagogue in 1977.

Franklin has been linked to the deaths of at least 18 other people. He was convicted of killing eight in the late 1970s and 1980s in racially motivated attacks around the country. The victims included two African-American men in Utah, two African-American teenagers in Ohio and an interracial couple in Wisconsin.

Franklin also has admitted to shooting Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt in 1978, paralyzing him. Flynt has argued that Franklin should serve life in prison and not be executed.

In October, Missouri changed its official protocols to allow for a compounded pentobarbital, a short-acting barbiturate, to be used in a lethal dose in executions.

The state also said it would make the compounding pharmacy mixing the drug a member of its official “execution team”, which could allow the pharmacy’s identity to be kept secret.

Stays of execution

Two federal judges granted the serial killer stays of execution on Tuesday, allowing him to challenge Missouri’s new lethal drug protocol and his mental competence, and the state immediately appealed the rulings.

In granting the stay, U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey noted that Missouri had issued three different protocols in the three months preceding Franklin’s execution date and as recently as five days before.

“Franklin has been afforded no time to research the risk of pain associated with the department’s new protocol, the quality of the pentobarbital provided, and the record of the source of the pentobarbital,” Laughrey wrote in the stay order entered in federal court in Jefferson City, Missouri.

But the Missouri Attorney General’s office successfully asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit to lift the stays.

Requests by Paige Canfield, an attorney representing Franklin, for the Eighth Circuit to reconsider were denied without explanation, according to an order entered early on Wednesday morning.

“We asked for the entire (Eighth Circuit) Court to rehear it and they declined,” Canfield said in a statement. “We are now filing an application with the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of execution.”

Missouri is one of many U.S. states that have been seeking out drugs for executions from compounding pharmacies now that a growing number of pharmaceutical manufacturers refuse to allow their drugs to be used for the purpose.

The practice is controversial because drugs mixed up in compounding pharmacies are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and some have been linked by government regulators to illness and deaths.

Critics say use of the compounded drugs could result in needless suffering and botched executions, but states including Missouri have pressed ahead.

In the second case, U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson in St. Louis ordered Franklin’s execution stayed, concluding that a delay was required to permit a meaningful review of his claim that he is mentally incompetent and cannot be executed.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon denied Franklin clemency on Monday. Franklin is one of 21 plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of the execution protocol issued by the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Franklin was the 35th inmate executed in the United States in 2013, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

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