If you watched Milos Foreman’s The People Vs. Larry Flynt, you know that in 1978, a gunman shot Larry Flynt outside of a Georgia courthouse, paralyzing him from the waist down, when all he ever wanted to do was to bang Courtney Love in a hot tub and wear the American flag as a diaper. The shooter, a paranoid schizophrenic white supremacist named Joseph Paul Franklin, who reportedly shot Flynt over an interracial Hustler spread, was convicted of eight other murders in the course of a racially (and possibly insanity)-motivated cross-country murder spree. He was sentenced to death in 1997 and was put to death by lethal injection today in Missouri, the state’s first execution in almost three years.
Franklin, 63, was executed at the state prison in Bonne Terre for killing Gerald Gordon in a sniper shooting at a suburban St. Louis synagogue in 1977. He was convicted of seven other murders, but the Missouri case was the only one resulting in a death sentence. Franklin has also admitted to shooting and wounding civil rights leader Vernon Jordan and Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, who has been paralyzed from the waist down since the attack in 1978. [...]
Franklin, a paranoid schizophrenic, was in his mid-20s when he began drifting across the country. He bombed a synagogue in Chattanooga, Tenn., in July 1977. No one was hurt, but soon, the killings began.
He arrived in the St. Louis area in October 1977 and picked out the Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel synagogue from the Yellow Pages. He fired five shots at the parking lot in Richmond Heights after a bar mitzvah on Oct. 8, 1977. One struck and killed Gerald Gordon, a 42-year-old father of three.
Franklin got away. His killing spree continued another three years.
Several of his victims were interracial couples. He also shot and killed, among others, two black children in Cincinnati, three female hitchhikers and a white 15-year-old prostitute, with whom he was angry because the girl had sex with black men.
He finally stumbled after killing two young black men in Salt Lake City in August 1980. He was arrested a month later in Kentucky, briefly escaped, and was captured for good a month after that in Florida. [HollywoodReporter]
Flynt himself is against the death penalty, and even wrote an editorial last month about why Franklin shouldn’t have been executed:
As far as the severity of punishment is concerned, to me, a life spent in a 3-by-6-foot cell is far harsher than the quick release of a lethal injection. And costs to the taxpayer? Execution has been proven to be far more expensive for the state than a conviction of life without parole, due to the long and complex judicial process required for capital cases.
Franklin has been sentenced by the Missouri Supreme Court to death by legal injection on Nov. 20. I have every reason to be overjoyed with this decision, but I am not. I have had many years in this wheelchair to think about this very topic. 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. [THR]
Personally, I’m against the death penalty, more because people are idiots and I don’t trust 12 idiots chosen at random to make life-or-death decisions than because I have any special soft spot for those who kill. I think a much better punishment would’ve been to make him serve out a life sentence inside a Hustler store in Las Vegas.
Also, neither here nor there, but as I was looking for a banner image I came across this picture of Reese Witherspoon at the People vs. Larry Flynt premiere (I don’t think she was even in that movie). Who knew Tracey Flick was the proto-Miley?
[pictures via Getty Image]