There were extraordinary 11th hour developments in this case; as with Troy Davis
two years ago, Franklin was granted a stay of execution, and then executed shortly after
Joseph Paul Franklin has been described universally as a white supremacist. There are ways of demonstrating one's supremacy, but serial murder isn't one of them. In any case, this term is as widely misunderstood as it is used. White supremacy was a political philosophy practised by the European powers in a bygone era. It took different forms in different places, but one form it never took was mass murder based on race.
That being said, Joseph Franklin will always be alluded to as such by the mainstream media, but there is no need for him to be so accommodated here.
Franklin's first serious crime was the firebombing of the Beth Sholom Synagogue, Chattanooga in July 1977. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Nine days later after robbing a bank he committed a double murder. His last crime, apart from escaping briefly from custody, was a double murder in Salt Lake City. It is for the slaying of David Martin and Ted Fields
that he was executed, both young men in their prime.
The most notable feature of this case is probably that his most famous - some would say notorious - victim, pleaded for his life. In March 1978 he shot pornographer Larry Flynt. Pornographer being rather a strong word; Flynt's magazines (as published then) look positively tame nowadays. Although the founder of Hustler
was left in a wheelchair, he appeared recently on a TV programme where he made out a cogent case
against the death penalty.
Franklin's voice was heard in the same lengthy interview, wherein he espoused the well worn line that he had found Jesus and didn't hate anybody anymore. This is all very touching but it begs the question why would the media give the time of day to someone who had committed such heinous crimes?
Franklin was sentenced to death in 1997, which begs an even bigger question: why did it take so long to execute him? For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over capital punishment, there is absolutely no reasonable argument against the execution of an individual who has:
a) murdered three or more people on separate occasions,
b) been convicted on absolutely overwhelming evidence.
Between December 1, 1957 and January 29, 1958, Charles Starkweather murdered 11 people. His killing spree inspired the Springsteen song Nebraska
, but more significant is the following timetable. His trial opened
on May 5. With no credible defence he was convicted and sentenced to death
. His appeal was dismissed
March 27, 1959, and his execution scheduled for
May 22, 1959. After a further stay, he was sent to the electric chair on June 25, 1959. They did things differently in those days.