US: Hitler-inspired mass killer is executed

Mugshots of Joseph Franklin taken in 2005, 2007 and 2012 tell much about his delusions.  Picture: Reuters
Mugshots of Joseph Franklin taken in 2005, 2007 and 2012 tell much about his delusions. Picture: Reuters
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A WHITE supremacist inspired by Hitler to kill 20 blacks and Jews in a bid to “cleanse the world” has been executed.

Joseph Franklin, 63, was killed by lethal injection in Missouri, minutes after the US Supreme Court threw out his final appeal.

Franklin also shot and wounded Vernon Jordan, a prominent civil rights leader, and Larry Flynt, publisher of the pornography magazine Hustler, who in recent weeks had lobbied to prevent Franklin’s execution, arguing that the death penalty constituted “vengeance, not justice.”

In a ruling issued at 5:20am yesterday, the US supreme court upheld an earlier decision by an appeals court to overturn a stay of execution granted on Tuesday by federal judges, clearing the way for Franklin to receive a lethal injection of pentobarbital, a barbiturate also used by vets to put down dogs.

With the serial killer already strapped to a trolley in the death chamber at the state prison in Bonne Terre, the death warrant was placed before Missouri’s governor, Jay Nixon, for final signing at 6:05am. By 6:07am, the needle was in Franklin’s arm.

“He blinked a couple of times, swallowed, breathed a couple of heavy breaths and then did not breathe anymore,” said Jessica Machetta, one of three press witnesses. It was the first time Missouri has used a single drug to execute a death-row inmate rather than a combination of three. Such a change in protocol has also been made by several other US states after pharmaceutical firms in the US and European Union refused to continue providing drugs for lethal injection. Plans by Missouri and other states to switch to propofol were also thwarted when the EU threatened to ban its export – a move that would have left US hospitals short of the anaesthetic for healthcare purposes.

Missouri overcame the challenges by using a compounding pharmacy to mix pentobarbital from raw ingredients and passing legislation that allowed it to protect the firm’s identity. But death penalty opponents raised an outcry, asserting that because drugs mixed in compounding pharmacies are not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, the state risks causing needless suffering through botched executions.

Franklin was one of more than 20 plaintiffs to have challenged the legality of Missouri’s execution regime. “It is disheartening the lengths that the state of Missouri will go to find a drug for lethal injection,” said Rita Linhardt, chair of Missourians Against the Death Penalty. “After the debacle with the attempted use of propofol, it would have been more appropriate for the state to pause and re-evaluate its use of capital punishment.”

Franklin was convicted of seven murders during a killing spree from 1977 to 1980, but confessed to as many as 22 overall. Inspired by Hitler’s Mein Kampf, he targeted blacks, Jews and inter-racial couples, picking off his first victim, Gerald Gordon, with a hunting rifle as Mr Gordon left a synagogue with his family in October 1977. Other killings included two boys, aged 13 and 14, shot while out jogging because they were black.

In a final interview before his execution, Franklin said it was his mission to “cleanse” the world of blacks and Jews because the “survival of the white race was at stake.”

“I figured once I started doing it ... other white supremacists would do the same thing,” he said, claiming that he had since “re-educated” himself.