IMPORTANT UPDATE: Shortly after I posted this diary stays of execution by two different judges came through. Unsurprisingly, both hinged on the dodgy nature of the pentobarbital made by the compounding pharmacy. From the rulings:
U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey granted a stay on Tuesday, finding Franklin's lawyers showed the use of pentobarbital carried "a high risk of contamination and prolonged, unnecessary pain beyond that which is required to achieve death."So stay tuned. There's a battle brewing here and it won't be pretty.
"Given the irreversible nature of the death penalty and plaintiffs' medical evidence and allegations, a stay is necessary to ensure that the defendants' last act against Franklin is not permanent, irremediable cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment," Laughrey wrote.
Another federal judge granted a second stay Tuesday, based on a separate defense petition contesting Franklin's competency.
"The Court concludes that a stay of execution is required to permit a meaningful review," U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson wrote.
The state is appealing both stays to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
IMPORTANT UPDATE 2: Franklin has been executed. The stays were lifted in the night. Time of death: 6:17AM.
Less than four hours from now a man will be put to death here in the state of Missouri. Very few seconds will pass between midnight and his execution. Following less than a month after, another Missouri death row inmate will meet the same fate.
Even in a state like Missouri, where both houses of the republican-held legislature are a boiling test tube of cranks, wingnuttery and Tea Party insanity in the research lab of democracy, capital punishment is controversial. But these two executions are more controversial than most. There is more afoot here than ending the existence of two very bad men.
Let me first take the opportunity to state my opinion on capital punishment. I'm not a big fan. There are many reasons for this, but it really boils down to this. First, I don't see the logic in killing someone who kills someone. The argument that it will deter others from committing the act of murder has no basis in reality. Ask any murderer if the thought of capital punishment hampered their actions in any way and they'll laugh in your face. So killing them for this crime merely perpetuates the horror. It's just wrong, a crime used to punish a crime, killing to punish killing. I think the best way to punish someone in this situation is to make them live a long and miserable life. Take them away from the outside world, limit their contact with other humans, don't allow them access to a forum to promote their twisted beliefs. Keep them alive as long as humanly possible and make life as miserable and unhappy as you can without it being cruel and unusual. You will have punished them much more thoroughly than killing them. I can't think of a more miserable punishment than being locked in jail for the rest of my natural life. This is my opinion, based on nothing more than my own gut feelings and self education on the subject, so take it for what it's worth and then let's move on.
Having said that, you could not find two more deserving candidates for the death penalty than the fellow who will be put to death this evening and the one to follow shortly thereafter.
The fellow facing doom this evening is Joseph Paul Franklin. He is considered a serial killer. As a child he was severely abused, as is the case with many a man who finds himself in Franklin's position. He came to embrace a hate-filled form of Evangelical Christianity, Nazism, and the KKK early in life, and he rolled these beliefs along with his anger and propensity for violence up into a hate-filled cigarette and smoked it on the road to hell.
Franklin is the very definition of the most horrendous form of racism. Every vile act he committed could rightly be labelled a hate crime. His targets were Jews, blacks and other people of color and anyone who dared consort with people of color and/or disagreed with his twisted ideology. He fire bombed a synagogue, committed aggravated assaults on mixed race couples and robbed banks before heading out on a crime and killing spree that started in 1977 and continued for years thereafter. He confessed to doing all of these things and more, including the shooting of Larry Flynt that left him paralyzed, the justification for which seems to have been Flynt's Hustler Magazine publication of images of interracial canoodling. He was acquitted but later confessed to shooting Vernon Jordon, Jr., a prominent black activist, because Franklin observed him enjoying the company of a white woman. I could spend all day listing the people he maimed and/or killed and the crimes he committed but there is no point to that as the list is extensive and you can read it all at the links provided if you'd like. His stated reason for committing all of these crimes was to attempt to start a race war. So yeah, he's a real peach.
The murder for which he'll be put to death in the wee hours tonight occurred in 1977 when he shot and killed Gerald Gordon and wounded two others outside a synagogue in Richmond Heights, Missouri as they were attending a bar mitzvah. Hiding in the grass in a sniper position, this mostly blind yet extremely accurate gunman began his string of murders. He wasn't sentenced to death for this killing until 1997, having spent the intervening years committing other crimes and as many as 20 more murders and doing a fine job of escaping from law enforcement and evading meaningful punishment in between bouts in jail for yet more murder, robbery and assault. His legal team used a defense of diminished capacity, with testimony that he was a paranoid schizophrenic but my feeling is that this was undermined by the fact that he was a very organized killer, planning complex and detailed crimes and subsequent escapes and being quite adept at evading capture. Alas, once caught he liked to talk about his escapades and now he's between a rock and a hard place.
Next up is Allen Nicklasson. (Author's note: I cannot vouch for the veracity of this link, but the details of the account of Nicklasson are correct and so I've included it for those details.) Nicklasson was also subjected to abuse as a child and the details of his childhood are sad and disturbing. Prone to violence from very early in his childhood, he was convicted at the age of 9 for stabbing his step-father. When he was moved from the juvenile system into the adult system he asked that he not be released from prison because he could not function in civil society and was a danger to others. Nevertheless, he was eventually released and it wasn't long until he committed the murder that landed him on death row.
In 1994, Nicklasson and two companions, Dennis Skillicorn and Tim DeGraffenreid, went on a crime spree in a decrepit car which kept breaking down. A decent fellow by the name of Richard Drummond stopped to help what he assumed were three stranded motorists and was rewarded for his kindness by being marched into the woods and shot by Nicklasson. After loading the ill-gotten booty from a robbery they'd committed earlier that evening, they headed out in Drummond's car and, after booting DeGraffenreid to fend for himself, took their crime spree to Arizona where they drove into the sand and got stuck. A married couple, Joseph and Charlene Babcock, stopped to help them. As before, they were rewarded with death for their trouble. Nicklasson and Skillicorn were sentenced to death for the killings and, despite Nicklasson's pleas for mercy on behalf of Skillicorn as having not participated in the murder of Drummond, Skillicorn was put to death by lethal injection in 2009. DeGraffenreid, who was only 18 at the time of the murders, didn't participate in the killing and led police to Drummond's body, was convicted of 2nd degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Nicklasson was originally scheduled to be put to death on October 23 of this year, but it was delayed due to controversy over the method of execution. Missouri uses lethal injection as the method of delivering death to those they deem deserving of it, but there have been spanners thrown into the gears of lethal justice and some underhanded skullduggery involved both by the state and by those that provide the drugs used. It is this controversy that ties these two seemingly unrelated murderers and their impending deaths together. Follow me below the swirling cloud of toxic gas where we shall examine this controversy more closely.