Joseph Paul Franklin, a white supremacist who targeted blacks and Jews in a cross-country killing spree from 1977 to 1980 and the man who shot Larry Flynt and left him partly paralyzed, was executed Wednesday by the state of Missouri.
Franklin, 63, was put to death at a state prison a short time after the Supreme Court denied him a stay. His lawyers had contested the state’s drug protocol for lethal injection and argued that he was not mentally competent. A lower judge had granted a stay on Tuesday.
Franklin was convicted in eight killings, and got the death penalty for a sniper attack outside a suburban St. Louis synagogue in 1977. He claimed responsibility for 20 killings in all.
Flynt, the publisher of Hustler magazine, was left paralyzed from the waist down after an attack in 1978. Franklin admitted to shooting both Flynt and Vernon Jordan, the civil rights leader and adviser to President Bill Clinton.
Franklin shot Flynt after Hustler published a photo shoot featuring a black man and a white woman. Flynt wrote earlier this year that he wanted “an hour in a room with him and a pair of wire-cutters and pliers, so I could inflict the same damage on him that he inflicted on me,” but said he did not want to see Franklin killed.
Missouri and other states have had to change their drug formulas for executions and turn to lightly regulated compounding pharmacies to buy them. Major drugmakers in recent years have halted production of some execution drugs or ordered that they not be used in executions.
Like other states, Missouri long used a three-drug execution method. After drugmakers stopped selling those drugs to prisons and corrections departments, Missouri turned to a single drug for execution, propofol.
But Gov. Jay Nixon ordered the Department of Corrections to come up with a new drug after an outcry from the medical profession over planned use of the popular anesthetic in an execution. Most propofol is made in Europe, and the European Union had threatened to limit exports if it was used in executions.
The corrections department then turned to pentobarbital made through a compounding pharmacy. Few details have been made public about the compounding pharmacy, because state law provides privacy for parties associated with executions. Franklin was executed with pentobarbital.
The lower court judge who granted the stay, Nanette Laughrey of federal court in Jefferson City, wrote that 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.”
Opponents of the death penalty gathered late Tuesday outside the correctional center where Franklin was being held.
Margaret Phillips, chair of the St. Louis chapter of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, told the AP: "The delays are good in that it means that judges are seriously looking at these issues. However this ends up, they're taking this seriously enough to look at it."
The execution was the 35th in the United States this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, and the first in Missouri in almost three years.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.