Joseph Paul Franklin’s Murder Victims Included Blacks, Jews and Interracial couples
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
Joseph Paul Franklin, who told authorities that a crime spree that left at least seven people dead was motivated by his dislike for Blacks, interracial couples and Jews, was executed by lethal injection Nov. 20 in Missouri.
Franklin, 63, was granted a stay of execution on Nov. 19, but was executed about 6 a.m. the next day after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene on his behalf. The death sentence took place at a Missouri prison complex in Bonne Terre. There were no witnesses to the execution because it followed an hours-long vigil when it was unclear that the execution would be carried out that day. According to news reports, Franklin had no last words and refused a last meal.
Among a long list of violent crimes, Franklin was convicted of eight murders, many involving assaults on interracial couples or people who engaged in what he described as race mixing.
Franklin also shot Black civil rights leader and attorney Vernon Jordan in 1980. Jordan survived the attack.
On Aug. 7, 1977 Franklin fatally shot African-American Alphonse Manning Jr., 23, and Toni Schwenn, 23, a white woman, in Madison, Wis., shortly after robbing a bank. In 1986, Franklin received two life sentences for the murders.
On Oct. 8, 1977 Franklin fired at a crowd outside Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel Congregation synagogue in Richmond Heights, Mo., killing Gerald C. Gordon, 42, of Chesterfield, Mo., and wounding William Lee Ash, 30, of Akron, Ohio. He was convicted in 1997 and received a death sentence.
On July 29, 1978 Franklin fatally shot African American William Bryant Tatum and wounded his white girlfriend, Nancy Hilton, 18, in Chattanooga, Tenn. He confessed, pleaded guilty and received a life sentence in 1998.
On June 8, 1980 Franklin fatally shot cousins Darrell Lane, 14, and Dante Evans Brown, 13, both African American, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was convicted in October 1998 and received two life sentences.
On Aug. 20, 1980 Ted Fields, David Martin, Terry Elrod and Karma Ingersoll were crossing 500 East at 900 South at 10:15 p.m. after jogging in Liberty Park in Salt Lake City, Utah. Shots are fired. Fields, 20, and Martin, 18, both African-American, are killed. These Utah murders ended Franklin’s crime spree when he was shortly thereafter arrested.
Franklin was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in federal court for the Utah murders in 1981. Six months later in state court he was again tried, convicted and sentenced to two life sentences for the murders.
Some of Franklin’s cases resulted in dropped charges or acquittals. He was charged with the 1979 shooting death of Jesse E. Taylor, 42, an African-American, and Marion Bresette, 31, who was White, in Oklahoma City but the case was later dropped. While on death row he confessed to killing Mercedes Lynn Masters, 15, in 1979. He said she told him, after they had a sexual relationship, that some of her customers were Black.
He also confessed to the sniper murder of Harold McIver, 27. Both shootings occurred in DeKalb County, Ga.
Franklin confessed to Virginia authorities in 1984 to the shooting deaths in 1980 of Nancy Santomero, 19, and Vickie Durian, 26, in Pocahontas County, Va., after one of the white women said she had had a boyfriend who was African-American.
In 1996, the Associated Press reported that Franklin told authorities he shot Jordan after stalking, but failing to locate, Jesse Jackson. He had traveled from Chicago, where Jackson’s headquarters was located, to Fort Wayne, Ind. He said he was looking for “race mixers.”
Franklin shot Jordan, who had just left the company of Whites following a speaking engagement, with a 30.06 rifle, causing a wound so large “a surgeon later said he could put his fist into it,” the AP reported. Franklin was acquitted of the attack by an all-White jury, but later admitted to it.
Franklin also claimed responsibility for the 1978 shooting of Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler magazine, that left Flynt paralyzed. The wheelchair-bound Flynt, nevertheless, worked against Franklin’s execution.
Franklin, born James Clayton Vaughan Jr., was linked to or confessed to numerous bank robberies, bombings and murders but many of the confessions were not corroborated by law enforcement officials. His sister told reporters he lived in an abusive home. He changed his name to Joseph Paul Franklin after Adolph Hitler’s minister of propaganda, Joseph Paul Goebbels, and Franklin after Benjamin Franklin.
He swore allegiance to the American Nazi Party, the Ku Klux Klan, and the National States Rights Party and embraced the view that the world needed to cleansed of what he called inferior races—Blacks and Jews.
In a jailhouse interview with the Indianapolis Star a few years after his capture, he said: “I was the executioner, the judge and the jury.” He said he believed he “was on a holy war against evil-doers” when he went on his killing spree that covered the eastern two-thirds of the United States between 1977 and 1980, including a bombing in Rockville, Md. for which he claimed responsibility that killed a Jewish lobbyist.
However, Franklin reportedly told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch two days before his execution that he no longer hates Blacks or Jews. He said he interacted with Blacks in the Missouri jail and “I saw they were people just like us.
According to the Associated Press, Missouri prison officials had planned to inject Franklin with propofol, the anesthesia that music legend Michael Jackson was injected with before he died. Authorities later changed their minds because of concerns that European drug manufacturers have with their drugs being used in executions.