Joseph Paul Franklin was executed by the state of Missouri earlier this morning. He was the first inmate executed in three years and the first to die by a single dose of pentobarbital.
Franklin gave no final statement but was relatively calm as the pentobarbital was administered; he began breathing hard for a few moments then ceased breathing at all. He was pronounced dead at 6:17 a.m. CST. His death came after three separate appeals were rejected and the U.S. Supreme Court overturned two stays of execution.
Franklin was convicted of the murder of Gerald Gordon as he left a synagogue in St. Louis in 1977. He was also convicted of seven other murders and claimed to have killed up to 20 people during his life, but it was Gordon's murder that led to the death sentence. Franklin specifically targeted African Americans and Jews, hoping to incite a new race war that others would follow.
In a final interview with CNN, Franklin said he was no longer racist and was not afraid to die because he had been "serving the Lord. The scriptures tell us when someone repents, God forgives them. Everything is forgotten, once forgiven. But the state doesn't think that way. It'll be the kingdom of Heaven for me because I've repented," he added.
"The cowardly and calculated shootings outside a St. Louis-area synagogue were part of Joseph Paul Franklin's long record of murders and other acts of extreme violence across the country, fueled by religious and racial hate," Governor Jay Nixon said in a statement after the execution was carried out.
Franklin was also responsible for the shooting that left "Hustler" publisher Larry Flynt paralyzed. Flynt had been working with the ACLU to prevent Franklin's execution, stating that it was not an acting of justice but of vengeance that would accomplish nothing.