FILE - In this June 2, 1981, file photo, Joseph Paul Franklin is shown following his conviction on two counts of first degree murder in Salt Lake City. Franklin has been convicted of five murders, but authorities suspect he's responsible for many more during a cross-country murder spree more than three decades ago, but it was the killing of a man outside a St. Louis-area synagogue in 1977 that landed Franklin on Missouri's death row. He's scheduled to die Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, the first execution in nearly three years in Missouri. (AP Photo/File)
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Options for a white supremacist serial killer set to die in Missouri were running out as the state moved toward its first execution in nearly three years.
Joseph Paul Franklin, 63, is scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for killing 42-year-old Gerald Gordon in a sniper attack outside a suburban St. Louis synagogue in 1977. It was one of as many as 20 killings committed by Franklin, who targeted blacks and Jews in a cross-country killing spree from 1977 to 1980. He was convicted of seven other murders but the Missouri case was the only one resulting in a death sentence.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Monday refused to halt the execution, denying Franklin’s clemency request and calling his crime in Missouri a “cowardly and calculated shooting.”
The Missouri crime “was only one of many senseless acts of extreme violence that Franklin, motivated by racial and religious intolerance, committed against numerous victims across the country — from Tennessee and Ohio to Utah and Wisconsin,” Nixon said in a statement.
Franklin has also admitted to shooting and wounding civil rights leader Vernon Jordan and Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, who has been paralyzed from the waist down since the attack in 1978. Flynt has also sued to stop Franklin’s execution because he doesn’t believe the death penalty is a deterrent.
Franklin’s attorney, Jennifer Herndon, said she was disappointed by the governor’s decision, and she filed a new appeal with the Missouri Supreme Court, citing concerns about Franklin’s mental illness and the state’s lethal injection process.
Clemency from Nixon, a Democrat, seemed a long shot given his history of support for the death penalty. He was also attorney general in 1997 when Franklin was tried, convicted and sentenced in the St. Louis County case.
However, Nixon did issue a stay last month, days before convicted killer Allen Nicklasson was scheduled to die. That decision came in response to concerns about Missouri’s plan to use propofol as the lethal drug. The European Union had threatened to limit propofol exports if the popular anesthetic was used in the execution, risking a nationwide shortage.
The Missouri Department of Corrections revised its protocol days later, changing to pentobarbital made through a compounding pharmacy. Few details have been made public about the compounding pharmacy because it is part of the execution team.
Herndon has raised questions about what could happen if the drug doesn’t work properly, potentially leaving the inmate in pain or brain-damaged but not dead. The state insists its protocol is constitutional.
“I was encouraged by the way (Nixon) reacted to the propofol and didn’t let that happen,” Herndon said. “I think there are similar, if not more serious, concerns with the new protocol.”
Herndon said Franklin is a paranoid schizophrenic who now regrets his crimes, having had a change of heart after serving time alongside black inmates.
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.”