Serial Killer Executed After Delay

Despite last-minute court appeals, serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin was executed in Missouri Wednesday morning. His lawyers appealed on the grounds that Franklin would be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment because of the current battle over lethal injection drugs. He was originally scheduled to be executed with a new drug, but the state of Missouri eventually was able to obtain the traditionally-used drug from an unnamed provider. Then, Franklin's lawyers argued that the drug's untraceable history might render it more dangerous, and may mean it will cause a painful death.

Though a lower-level appeals court approved a stay on his execution, a federal appeals court eventually said that it could proceed. The supreme court did not intervene in time to stop it.

U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey agreed with attorneys, writing that the corrections department "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," and granted Franklin's first stay. Another judge then extended it on Tuesday, before being overruled. He was executed early Wednesday morning, after refusing his last meal.

Franklin was on death row for a 1977 murder, in which he killed Gerald Gordon near a St. Louis synagogue. He was also blamed for 22 others, and the attempted assassinations of a prominent civil rights advocate and of Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt. Franklin was reportedly trying to start a race war.

As we reported, supplies of pentobarbital, a drug commonly used in lethal injections, are drying up after its Danish manufacturer declared it "off-limits" for such uses. Instead, law enforcement officials are getting more creative, as they did with an execution scheduled for Nov. 14 in Ohio:

This injection, to be used on Ronald Phillips, a man convicted of raping and killing his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter, is made up of a two-dose combination that has never been used in an execution before. The new cocktail is made up of a sedative, midazolam, and a painkiller, hydromorphone — both of which will be injected directly into Phillips’ muscle.

Phillips eventually had his execution delayed, because he wanted to donate his organs. But the new cocktails are causing widespread concern over their safety and efficacy. Support for the death penalty, meanwhile, is at a multi-decade low.