The Cautionary Instruction: Racially-motivated serial killer heads to the gallows

Friday, 15 November 2013 06:00 AM Written by  Matt Mangino

20131115wap josephpaulfranklin 150Joseph Paul Franklin is scheduled for execution next Wednesday in Missouri. Franklin is a rare racially-motivated serial killer.

Franklin drifted city-to-city and state-to-state in search of new hunting grounds in a quest, as he put it, to "cleanse the world.”

Franklin’s murderous acts can be traced back to his indoctrination by extremist groups he joined—the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), the American Nazi Party and the National States Rights Party (NSRP). Uneducated and shiftless young men like Franklin were targeted by the KKK, the Nazi Party and the NSRP in their recruitment of members.

In total, Franklin has been linked to roughly 20 killings and numerous other crimes. Beginning in 1977 and running through 1980, Franklin has been implicated in, or convicted of, two killings in Madison, WI; and a killing, in St. Louis. He is also responsible for a couple killings each in Chattanooga, TN, Johnstown, PA, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City and Oklahoma City; single killings in Jackson, MI, Tomah, WI and Falls Church, VA, as well as multiple killings in Indianapolis.

He has confessed to the shooting of civil rights leader Vernon Jordan and Hustler magazine's Larry Flynt. He also admitted guilt in a 1980 murder of two hitchhikers in West Virginia, a crime for which another man had been convicted. In addition to his death sentence in Missouri, Franklin has been sentenced to life in prison in multiple states.

Franklin sought out Flynt after looking through Hustler magazine. "I see some broad having sex with a black man," he said. "I got so outraged."

He flipped through the magazine and discovered Flynt was the publisher. "I thought, 'I'm going to kill that guy,'" Franklin said. "I started stalking him."

Flynt was paralyzed as a result of Franklin’s attack. Yet, Flynt is rallying support to save Franklin’s life. He recently filed suit in federal court seeking to view sealed documents that might identify an anesthesiologist on Franklin’s execution team.

Flynt’s motion alleges that the Missouri Department of Corrections says its doctor is certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology, that organization’s rules say a member “should not participate in an execution.” It is a back door effort to stop Franklin’s execution.

In a recent article in The Hollywood Reporter, Flynt said, “As I see it, the sole motivating factor behind the death penalty is vengeance, not justice, and I firmly believe that a government that forbids killing among its citizens should not be in the business of killing people itself.”

(Image: Joseph Paul Franklin in Ohio's Hamilton County Common Pleas Court in 1998. Al Behrman/Associated Press)

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George, P.C. He is the former district attorney of Lawrence County and just completed a six year term on the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. His weekly column on crime and punishment is syndicated by GateHouse New Service. You can read his musings on the criminal justice system at and follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.

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