ST. LOUIS - Serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin is getting support from an unlikely source: Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, who was paralyzed 35 years ago by a bullet apparently fired by Franklin.
Franklin is set for execution Nov. 20 in Missouri for a 1977 murder. But he's claimed responsibility for nearly two dozen other killings and many other crimes. He admitted shooting Flynt in 1978 but was never charged.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a court motion Saturday in U.S. District Court in Jefferson City, Mo., on Flynt's behalf, arguing that Missouri's execution process is too secretive and demanding more information be made public.
"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," Jeffrey A. Mittman, executive director of the ACLU office in St. Louis, said Monday in a statement.
Messages seeking comment from the Missouri Department of Corrections and the Missouri Attorney General's office were not immediately returned.
Franklin was given the death penalty for killing a man outside a suburban St. Louis synagogue in 1977, but has also been convicted of killing an interracial couple in Madison, Wis., in 1977, and killing two black joggers in Salt Lake City in 1980. He bombed a Chattanooga, Tenn., synagogue in 1977, but it was empty by the time the bomb went off.
Investigators believe Franklin, fueled by a hatred of blacks and Jews, committed many more crimes in several states. He has reportedly confessed to at least 21 killings, 16 bank robberies and other crimes during the late 1970s until he was caught after the Salt Lake City killings in 1980.
Among his alleged crimes were two high-profile shootings - of civil rights leader Vernon Jordan in Fort Wayne, Ind., in 1980, and Flynt in Lawrenceville, Ga., in 1978. Both men survived.
Missouri had planned to become the first state to execute an inmate using the anesthetic propofol, until a huge outcry from the medical community. Most propofol is made in Europe, and the European Union threatened to limit exports if it was used in an execution. Gov. Jay Nixon last month halted the scheduled execution of another convicted killer, Allen Nicklasson, and ordered the Corrections Department to revise the protocol.
Days later, Missouri switched its execution drug to pentobarbital. Flynt's motion claims too few details about that switch have been released to the public.
He also expressed opposition to the death penalty.
"I have advocated that Franklin should spend the remainder of his life in prison rather than be killed," Flynt wrote in the court filing.
He cited his recent commentary in the Hollywood Reporter in which he wrote that 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."
Flynt was standing trial on an obscenity charge in Georgia in 1978 when he was wounded by a sniper's bullet. No one was arrested at the time.
Franklin was housed in federal prison in Marion, Ill., in the mid-1990s when he confessed to shooting Flynt. Gwinnett County, Ga., District Attorney Danny Porter said he is convinced Franklin shot Flynt because Franklin provided information only the shooter would know - details about the shooting location, the type of weapon used, even the maker of the gun.
But Porter said he opted against filing charges because Franklin had already been convicted of multiple killings and said it didn't make sense to bring him back to Georgia for another trial.
The St. Louis County synagogue shooting happened in 1977. Franklin staked out a spot nearby and waited for guests to leave a bar mitzvah. He shot and killed 42-year-old Gerald Gordon, then rode a bicycle to his waiting car and got away. He confessed in 1994, also while imprisoned in Marion, and was convicted in a 1997 trial.
Franklin declined an interview request from The Associated Press.