Federal Judge Granted a Stay of Execution for a Serial Killer

Just hours before white supremacist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin was scheduled to be killed via lethal injection, U.S. District Judge in Missouri, Nanette Laughreyin, granted stay of execution, citing concerns over Missouri’s new execution method.

Franklin is challenging Missouri’s drug choice of pentobarbital for the lethal injection procedure. He argues that the use of this drug violates his eighth amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. The federal judge ruled that the lawsuit filed by Franklin and 20 other death row inmates challenging Missouri’s execution procedure must be resolved before Franklin is definitively put to death by lethal injection.

Franklin is allegedly responsible for murdering 22 people between 1977 and 1980. Franklin confessed to many murders and was convicted of eight murders total — two in Cincinnati, two in Salt Lake City, two in Madison, Wisconsin, one in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and another in St. Louis, Missouri.

In addition to the killings, Franklin admitted to the attempted assassinations of Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt in 1978 and civil rights leader Vernon Jordan in 1980. He is now on death row for the 1977 murder of Gerald Gordon in St. Louis, Missouri.

At first read, the Federal Judge’s decision may raise a “moral” red flag. You may be thinking, “how can such a culpable man be given an opportunity to be heard? After all, he did confess to an abundance of heinous crimes?” The response to this very common thought is simple. The U.S. Constitution protects people against cruel and unusual punishment, and our justice system allows criminal defense attorney’s to make such arguments for their clients, if the law and facts permit. In this case, the federal judge found that Franklin’s defense attorney’s showed the use of the pentobarbital drug for the lethal injection procedure in Missouri, carried “a high risk of contamination and prolonged, unnecessary pain beyond that which is required to achieve death.” As such, the judge granted Franklin a stay of execution, which delayed his execution.

The next step in Franklin’s case is review by a higher court who will listen to and analyze legal arguments by both the prosecuting attorney and Franklin’s defense attorney, and will decide whether the use of the pentobarbital drug, as a part of the lethal injection procedure in Missouri, is either constitutionally offensive or legally permissive.

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