Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Execution stays end, and a doomed man dies

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Greg Peck
Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A brief on Page 7B of today's Gazette told how a federal judge in Missouri granted a stay of execution Tuesday for Joseph Paul Franklin. The stay came just hours before Franklin's scheduled death for the 1977 sniper slaying of a man at a suburban St. Louis synagogue. The judge ruled that a lawsuit challenging Missouri's execution protocol had to be resolved before this white supremacist serial killer could be put to death. In a separate defense appeal, a second judge issued a stay until Franklin's competency was reviewed.

The stays didn't last long. Franklin, 63, was pronounced dead at 6:17 a.m. today after getting a lethal injection. This killer, perhaps best known for shooting and paralyzing Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, was convicted of eight murders but claimed up to 20.

That brief in today's Gazette did not mention Franklin's Wisconsin connection. Here, as the late Paul Harvey used to say, is the rest of the story.

My dad mailed me a Nov. 10 story written by Wisconsin State Journal columnist Doug Moe. Dad worked for decades in Madison and remembered Franklin's double murder in a parking lot at East Towne Mall in 1977. As Moe explains it, Franklin came to Madison that summer intending to kill then-Judge Archie Simonson because Franklin was enraged at a sentence Simonson handed down in a sexual assault case. Franklin had read about it in Time magazine.

Franklin picked up two female hitchhikers who wanted to be let out at the mall. He dropped them off, then got behind the car of a young biracial couple, Alphonce Manning Jr. and Toni Schwenn. Their cars might have bumped. Franklin hit the horn. Manning got out, went to Franklin's car and was shot twice. Franklin then shot Schwenn through the car window and again as she staggered out.

The slayings apparently were Franklin's first ones and went unsolved for years until he confessed while in an Illinois prison. He was brought to Wisconsin for trial despite the risk he might escape. The Dane County district attorney felt he owed a trial to the victims' families and had no assurances Franklin was behind bars for life. Franklin tried to recant but was convicted of the murders.

Moe says Jerry Mitchell, a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., wrote an article last month about Franklin after the killer contacted him “out of the blue.”

Franklin claimed to be a changed man, no longer racist, but recalled his Madison murders. Wrote Moe: “'He related the whole thing, right down to the sound of the bullets…,' Mitchell said. 'It was chilling.'”

And now, a chilling man will face his maker.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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