ST. LOUIS (AP) — A federal judge in Missouri yesterday granted a stay of execution to white supremacist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin just hours before his scheduled death, citing concerns over the state’s new execution method.
U.S. District Court Judge Nanette Laughrey ruled that a lawsuit filed by Franklin and 20 other death row inmates challenging Missouri’s execution protocol must be resolved before he is put to death.
The 14-page ruling criticizes the timing of the state’s changes to how it carries out capital punishment, specifically its plan to use for the first time a single drug, pentobarbital. It also takes issue with a plan to acquire the drug from a compounding pharmacy.
Laughrey wrote 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.” She noted that the execution protocol, which has changed repeatedly, “has been a frustratingly moving target.”
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the state would appeal the ruling. Messages left with the state attorney general’s office were not returned.
If a federal appeals court or the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Laughrey’s ruling, the execution could go forward. Franklin’s attorney, Jennifer Herndon, said the execution warrant allows it to be carried out anytime today.
Herndon said Franklin, who has been diagnosed as mentally ill, didn’t seem to fully understand the stay.
“He was happy,” she said. “I’m not really convinced that he totally understands that he was going to die.”
Franklin, 63, was convicted of seven other murders, but the Missouri case was the only one resulting in a death sentence. Franklin also has 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.