Larry Flynt wants to stop Missouri from executing the man whose bullet put the publisher of Hustler magazine in a wheelchair for life. Over the weekend, Flynt and the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit to force the state to release documents on how the state determines the process by which it kills prisoners.
Joseph Paul Franklin, 63, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Nov. 20. Missouri last month delayed the execution of convicted murderer Allen Nicklasson after the German manufacturer of the drug propofol objected to its use in the deadly mixture of drugs designed to execute inmates.
Like many states, Missouri has had a complicated relationship with the death penalty, which was effectively suspended by the U.S. Supreme Court on constitutional grounds in 1972, but reinstated in 1976. Legal attacks on the death penalty have continued ever since and the current wave includes questions about the drugs used in the execution and whether they really stop unusual pain and suffering.
Companies in Europe, where capital punishment is generally banned, have often appealed to U.S. authorities not to use their products -- designed to aid healing – as weapons of death.
Missouri has said it will revise the ingredients of its death cocktail in time to execute Franklin. It had halted lethal injections in 2006 after questions about how a doctor on the death team administered the lethal injection.
Franklin, who told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1995 that he had changed his name to honor Joseph Paul Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda, has been convicted of eight racially motivated murders in several states. In Missouri, he was convicted of using a hunting rifle to kill a man outside a St. Louis synagogue in 1977. He has told authorities that he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party.
In addition to his convictions, he has admitted blowing up a Tennessee synagogue and the home of a lobbyist in Maryland. He also claimed responsibility for trying to kill civil rights leader Vernon Jordan and for shooting Flynt in 1978 because he was upset at interracial photo spreads in the sex magazine.
Flynt has become increasingly more vocal about saving Franklin from death. In columns in The Hollywood Reporter last month, Flynt said he objected to the execution and also challenged the methodology of execution and the lack of transparency.
On Saturday, he and the ACLU went to court, seeking documents from the state.
“I find it totally absurd that a government that forbids killing is allowed to use that same crime as punishment,” Flynt said in a written statement. “But, until the death penalty is abolished, the public has a right to know the details about how the state plans to execute people on its behalf.”
“There has been far too much secrecy clouding the state’s execution plans already, which makes it difficult to trust that the state is acting on our behalf in an ethical manner,” said Jeffrey A. Mittman, the executive director of the state’s ACLU chapter.
The parties are focusing on a state deposition that includes statements from a board-certified anesthesiologist identified as M3. They question the lack of identification and how M3 could be certified.
“The state claims that its executions satisfy Eighth Amendment standards because their execution team includes a board-certified anesthesiologist,” Tony Rothert, the legal director of the state chapter said in a prepared statement.
“However, the American Board of Anesthesiology forbids its members from participating in capital punishment. If M3 is certified, it is only because the state is abetting him in hiding his identify from the board. The public should be skeptical of his testimony, but because his testimony is sealed, we do not even know what he said,” Rothert stated.
State Corrections officials did not return calls on Monday, Veterans Day.
Flynt said he would rather see Franklin spend the rest of his life in prison.
“In all the years since the shooting, I have never come face-to-face with Franklin. I would love 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,” Flynt wrote.
“But, I do not want to kill him, nor do I want to see him die.”
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