Protesters 'cautiously optimistic' about Joseph Paul Franklin's stay of execution

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 | 10:41 p.m. CST; updated 6:41 a.m. CST, Wednesday, November 20, 2013
The Columbia chapter of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty organized a protest at Boone County Courthouse on Tuesday. The group protested the execution of serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin, who was granted a stay of execution Tuesday night because of a pending lawsuit challenging Missouri's execution law.

UPDATE: On Wednesday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court denied an execution stay for Joseph Paul Franklin. The state carried out the execution Wednesday morning. Franklin was pronounced dead at 6:17 a.m.

COLUMBIA — About a dozen people gathered Tuesday evening outside the Boone County Courthouse in protest of Joseph Paul Franklin's execution, which was scheduled for 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.


Even among the hard-core criminals on Missouri's death row, Joseph Paul Franklin is perhaps the most notorious, a cunning killer who picked out victims at random, using marksman skills to murder and maim from a hidden spot in a vacant building, a grassy field and a highway overpass. (This story is available to Missourian digital members.)

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Shortly after protesters took up their signs, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that a lawsuit Franklin filed with 20 other inmates challenging Missouri's execution methods must be resolved before his execution.

Jim Fieser, 50, was one of the protesters at the Tuesday gathering, which was organized by the Columbia chapter of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. He said he was happy to hear that Franklin's execution had been granted a stay.

"We're relieved that there won't be an execution in Missouri tonight," he said. "That's always a good thing."

Jeff Stack said it's wrong to kill a human being, regardless of the circumstances. He said he believes Franklin should continue to be incarcerated but should not be killed.

"I mean, if we had any knowledge of Gerald Gordon about to be shot by Joseph Franklin, obviously we would have intervened," Stack said. "We would have done whatever we could to stop that killing."

Franklin, now 63, was sentenced to death in 1997 for killing 42-year-old Gerald Gordon in 1977. Franklin shot Gordon with a sniper rifle outside a synagogue near St. Louis.

Franklin has been convicted of several racially motivated murders, but only Gordon's resulted in the death penalty. He has taken responsibility for about 20 murders total.

Protester Ruth O'Neill, 53, said she was cautiously optimistic about the stay.

"I know that they can dissolve in the blink of an eye," she said.

The stay was granted by Judge Nanette Laughrey.

The Missouri Department of Corrections switched protocol from using a combination of drugs including propofol to using only pentobarbital earlier this month after the European Union threatened to prohibit trade of propofol if it were used for executions.

Laughrey wrote in her ruling that the Missouri Department of Corrections "has not provided any information about the certification, inspection history, infraction history, or other aspects of the compounding pharmacy or of the person compounding the drug."

If not for his stay of execution, Franklin would have been Missouri's first execution under the new protocol.

Several of the protesters at the courthouse Tuesday evening said they hoped the stay would hold.

"The state, instead of a public hanging like they used to do, they're trying to find this sanitary way to kill people, but it's still the same thing," said Laird Okie, 63. "It's just as immoral and useless as when they had public hangings."

Supervising editor is Margaux Henquinet.

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Ellis Smith November 20, 2013 | 6:59 a.m.

"Jeff Stack said it's wrong to kill a human being, regardless of the circumstances."

Does Jeff also favor a ban on abortions?

I ask the question not to perpetuate the debate on abortion but to ask whether those who are demonstrating could be a bit more CONSISTENT.

We've all heard the argument that a fetus is not a person (human being), but did that fetus stand jury trial and be convicted of killing another human being, afterwards being granted multiple legal appeals, before IT was "terminated"? I doubt it.

Maybe it's a matter of semantics:"kill" versus "terminate." One is judged "bad" and the other is judged "good."

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams November 20, 2013 | 2:36 p.m.


Dark side of narrow, squeeze tube: Not human. No rights.

Bright side of narrow, squeeze tube: Human. Has rights.

Why knew...that h-nu...conferred a diploma that said "Human, with all rights conferred....."?

Yeah, makes sense to me, too.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams November 20, 2013 | 2:40 p.m.

Ellis: Reading the signs held by the protesters, if you remove the one noting Franklin's name, you can't tell if this is an anti-death penalty demonstration or anti-abortion demonstration!!!

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith November 20, 2013 | 3:29 p.m.


Just some consistency, please, on anything!

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams November 20, 2013 | 5:06 p.m.

Ellis: Ethics is a determination of what is right or wrong.

Morality is a determination of whether a human follows his/her ethic.

When the human brain can determine its ethic dependent only upon whim or convenient preference, inconsistency is a given. Right and wrong are fluid.

Just ask Dave Rosman.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith November 21, 2013 | 6:22 a.m.


Thanks for the statement concerning ethics and morality; it's a good thing (seriously) to review basic principles and concepts from time to time.

I don't think I'll take you up on your suggestion, however. Locally we too have fence posts, and I'd sooner establish a dialog with a fence post. You are no doubt familiar with the old saying which compares an individual's demonstrated cognitive abilities to those of a fence post.

Should we also regulate those fence posts? We may soon run out of anything which hasn't already been regulated (to its ultimate death).

(Report Comment)

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