Joseph Paul Franklin

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Joseph Paul Franklin
Joseph Paul Franklin.png
James Clayton Vaughn Jr.

(1950-04-13)April 13, 1950
Mobile, Alabama, U.S.
DiedNovember 20, 2013(2013-11-20) (aged 63)
Cause of deathExecution by lethal injection
Other namesThe Racist Killer
MotiveDesire to incite a race war
Criminal penalty Life imprisonment x4 (March 23, 1981 & September 1986)
Death by lethal injection (July 17, 1984 & February 27, 1997)
Victims8–22 [1]
Span of crimes
August 7, 1977–August 20, 1980
Country United States
State(s)Missouri, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Utah
Date apprehended
October 28, 1980

Joseph Paul Franklin (born James Clayton Vaughn Jr.; April 13, 1950 – November 20, 2013) was an American white supremacist serial killer who engaged in a murder spree spanning the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Americans Citizens, or natives, of the United States of America

Americans are nationals and citizens of the United States of America. Although nationals and citizens make up the majority of Americans, some dual citizens, expatriates, and permanent residents may also claim American nationality. The United States is home to people of many different ethnic origins. As a result, American culture and law does not equate nationality with race or ethnicity, but with citizenship and permanent allegiance.

White supremacy or white supremacism is the racist belief that white people are superior to people of other races and therefore should be dominant over them. White supremacy has roots in scientific racism, and it often relies on pseudoscientific arguments. Like most similar movements such as neo-Nazism, white supremacists typically oppose members of other races as well as Jews.

A serial killer is typically a person who murders three or more people, usually in service of abnormal psychological gratification, with the murders taking place over more than a month and including a significant period of time between them. Different authorities apply different criteria when designating serial killers. For example, while most authorities set a threshold of three murders, others extend it to four or lessen it to two. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines serial killing as "a series of two or more murders, committed as separate events, usually, but not always, by one offender acting alone".


Franklin was convicted of several murders and received six life sentences, as well as the death sentence. He also confessed to the attempted murders of magazine publisher Larry Flynt in 1978 and civil rights activist Vernon Jordan in 1980. Both survived their injuries, but Flynt was left permanently paralyzed from the waist down. Franklin was not convicted in either of those highly publicized cases, and his confessions came years after the crimes occurred.

Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is a government-sanctioned practice whereby a person is killed by the state as a punishment for a crime. The sentence that someone be punished in such a manner is referred to as a death sentence, whereas the act of carrying out the sentence is known as an execution. Crimes that are punishable by death are known as capital crimes, capital offences or capital felonies, and they commonly include serious offences such as murder, mass murder, aggravated cases of rape, child rape, child sexual abuse, terrorism, treason, espionage, offences against the State, such as attempting to overthrow government, piracy, aircraft hijacking, drug trafficking and drug dealing, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and in some cases, the most serious acts of recidivism, aggravated robbery, and kidnapping, but may include a wide range of offences depending on a country. Etymologically, the term capital in this context alluded to execution by beheading.

Larry Flynt American publisher

Larry Claxton Flynt Jr. is an American publisher and the president of Larry Flynt Publications (LFP). LFP mainly produces magazines, such as Hustler, and sexually graphic videos. Flynt has fought several high profile legal battles involving the First Amendment, and has unsuccessfully run for public office. He is paralyzed from the waist down due to injuries sustained in a 1978 murder attempt by serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin. In 2003, Arena magazine listed him at No. 1 on the "50 Powerful People in Porn" list.

Vernon Jordan African-American lawyer, civil rights activist

Vernon Eulion Jordan Jr. is an American business executive and civil rights activist in the United States. A leading figure in the Civil Rights Movement, he was chosen by President Bill Clinton as a close adviser. Jordan has become known as an influential figure in American politics.

Because he repeatedly changed his accounts of some crimes, and was not charged in some cases in which he was suspected, officials cannot determine the full extent of Franklin's crimes. His claims of racial motivation were offset by a defense expert witness who testified in 1997 that Franklin had paranoid schizophrenia and was not fit to stand trial.

An expert witness, in England, Wales and the United States, is a person whose opinion by virtue of education, training, certification, skills or experience, is accepted by the judge as an expert. The judge may consider the witness's specialized opinion about evidence or about facts before the court within the expert's area of expertise, referred to as an "expert opinion". Expert witnesses may also deliver "expert evidence" within the area of their expertise. Their testimony may be rebutted by testimony from other experts or by other evidence or facts.

Paranoid schizophrenia schizophrenia that involves delusions or auditory hallucinations of persecution or being plotted against without thought disorder, disorganized behavior, or affective flattening

Paranoid schizophrenia is the most common type of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is defined as “a chronic mental disorder in which a person is withdrawn from reality." Schizophrenia is divided into subtypes based on the “predominant symptomatology at the time of evaluation." The subtypes are classified as: paranoid, disorganized, catatonic, undifferentiated, and residual type. However, they are not completely separate diagnoses, and cannot predict the progression of the disease. The clinical picture is dominated by relatively stable and often persecutory delusions that are usually accompanied by hallucinations, particularly of the auditory variety, and perceptual disturbances. These symptoms can have a huge effect on functioning and can negatively affect quality of life. Paranoid schizophrenia is a lifelong disease, but with proper treatment, a person with the illness can attain a higher quality of life.

Franklin was on Missouri's death row for 15 years awaiting execution for the 1977 murder of Gerald Gordon. [2] [3] He was executed by lethal injection on November 20, 2013. [4]

Missouri U.S. state in the United States

Missouri is a state in the Midwestern United States. With over six million residents, it is the 18th-most populous state of the Union. The largest urban areas are St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Columbia; the capital is Jefferson City. The state is the 21st-most extensive in area. Missouri is bordered by eight states : Iowa to the north, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee to the east, Arkansas to the south and Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska to the west. In the South are the Ozarks, a forested highland, providing timber, minerals and recreation. The Missouri River, after which the state is named, flows through the center of the state into the Mississippi River, which makes up Missouri's eastern border.

Lethal injection form of execution

Lethal injection is the practice of injecting one or more drugs into a person for the express purpose of causing immediate death. The main application for this procedure is capital punishment, but the term may also be applied in a broader sense to include euthanasia and other forms of suicide. The drugs cause the person to become unconscious, stops their breathing, and causes a heart arrhythmia, in that order.

Early life

James Clayton Vaughn Jr. was born in Mobile, Alabama, on April 13, 1950, the eldest son of James Clayton Vaughn Sr. and Helen Rau Vaughn, and brother to Carolyn, Marilyn and Gordon. [5] Vaughn's father was an epileptic World War II veteran and butcher who left the family when Vaughn was aged eight. [6] His sister Carolyn recalled, "Whenever [Vaughn Sr.] came to visit he'd beat us," and their mother had Vaughn Sr. jailed twice for public drunkenness. Vaughn's mother was described by a family friend as "a full-blooded German, a real strict, perfectionist lady. I never saw her beat any of [her children], but they told me stories." [6] Vaughn later stated that he was rarely given enough to eat and suffered severe physical abuse as a child, [7] and that his mother "didn't care about [him and his siblings]". [8] He claimed that these factors stunted his emotional development, and said he had "always been least ten years or more behind other people in their maturity." [8]

Mobile, Alabama City in Alabama, United States

Mobile is the county seat of Mobile County, Alabama, United States. The population within the city limits was 195,111 as of the 2010 United States Census, making it the third most populous city in Alabama, the most populous in Mobile County, and the largest municipality on the Gulf Coast between New Orleans, Louisiana, and St. Petersburg, Florida.

Alabama U.S. state in the United States

Alabama is a state in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama is the 30th largest by area and the 24th-most populous of the U.S. states. With a total of 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of inland waterways, Alabama has among the most of any state.

Epilepsy human neurological disease causing seizures

Epilepsy is a group of neurological disorders characterized by recurrent epileptic seizures. Epileptic seizures are episodes that can vary from brief and nearly undetectable periods to long periods of vigorous shaking. These episodes can result in physical injuries, including occasionally broken bones. In epilepsy, seizures have a tendency to recur and, as a rule, have no immediate underlying cause. Isolated seizures that are provoked by a specific cause such as poisoning are not deemed to represent epilepsy. People with epilepsy may be treated differently in various areas of the world and experience varying degrees of social stigma due to their condition.

As early as high school, Vaughn developed an interest in evangelical Christianity, then in Nazism, and later held memberships in both the National Socialist White People's Party and the Ku Klux Klan. He eventually changed his name to "Joseph Paul Franklin" in honor of Paul Joseph Goebbels and Benjamin Franklin. [9] In the 1960s, Franklin was inspired to start a race war after reading Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf . "I've never felt that way about any other book that I read," he would reflect later. "It was something weird about that book." [10]

National Socialism, more commonly known as Nazism, is the ideology and practices associated with the Nazi Party—officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party —in Nazi Germany, and of other far-right groups with similar ideas and aims.

Ku Klux Klan American white supremacy group

The Ku Klux Klan, commonly called the KKK or the Klan, is an American white supremacist hate group. The Klan has existed in three distinct eras at different points in time during the history of the United States. Each has advocated extremist reactionary positions such as white nationalism, anti-immigration and—especially in later iterations—Nordicism and anti-Catholicism. Historically, the Klan used terrorism—both physical assault and murder—against groups or individuals whom they opposed. All three movements have called for the "purification" of American society and all are considered right-wing extremist organizations. In each era, membership was secret and estimates of the total were highly exaggerated by both friends and enemies.

Joseph Goebbels Nazi politician and Propaganda Minister

Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German Nazi politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. He was one of Adolf Hitler's closest and most devoted associates, and was known for his skills in public speaking and his deeply virulent antisemitism, which was evident in his publicly voiced views. He advocated progressively harsher discrimination, including the extermination of the Jews in the Holocaust.


For much of his life, Franklin was a drifter, roaming the East Coast seeking chances to "cleanse the world" of people he considered inferior, especially blacks and Jews. [7] His primary source of financial support appears to have been bank robberies. Franklin supplemented his income from criminal acts with paid blood bank donations, which eventually led to his subsequent capture by the FBI. [11]





Apprehension, conviction, and imprisonment

Following the two murders in Utah, Franklin returned to the midwestern U.S. Traveling through Kentucky, he was detained and questioned regarding a firearm that he was transporting in his car. Franklin fled from this interrogation, but authorities recovered sufficient evidence from the vehicle to point suspicions that potentially linked him to the sniper killings. [11] His conspicuous racist tattoos, coupled with his habit of visiting blood banks, led investigators to issue a nationwide alert to blood banks. In October 1980, the tattoos drew the attention of a Florida blood bank worker, who contacted the FBI. Franklin was arrested in Lakeland on October 28, 1980. [11]

Franklin tried to escape during the judgment of the 1997 Missouri trial on charges of murdering Gerald Gordon. He was convicted of the murder charge. The psychiatrist Dorothy Otnow Lewis, who had interviewed him at length, testified for the defense that she believed that he was a paranoid schizophrenic and unfit to stand trial. Lewis noted his delusional thinking and a childhood history of severe abuse. [7] In October 2013, Flynt called for clemency for Franklin, asserting "that a government that forbids killing among its citizens should not be in the business of killing people itself." [21]

Franklin was held on death row at the Potosi Correctional Center near Mineral Point, Missouri. In August 2013, the Missouri Supreme Court announced that Franklin would be executed on November 20. [22] Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said in a statement that by setting execution dates, the state high court "has taken an important step to see that justice is finally done for the victims and their families". [23]


Franklin's execution was affected by the European Union export ban when the German drug manufacturer Fresenius Kabi was obliged to refuse having their drugs used for lethal injections. [24] In response Missouri announced that it would use for Franklin's execution a new method of lethal injection, which used a single drug provided by an unnamed compounding pharmacy. [25]

A day before his execution, U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey (Jefferson City) granted a stay of execution over concerns raised about the new method of execution. [26] A second stay was granted that evening by US District Judge Carol E. Jackson (St. Louis), based on Franklin's claim that he was too mentally incompetent to be executed. An appeals court quickly overturned both stays, [27] and the Supreme Court subsequently rejected his final appeals. [28] [29]

In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper published on November 17, 2013, Franklin said he had renounced his racist views. He said his motivation had been "illogical" and was partly a consequence of an abusive upbringing. He said he had interacted with black people in prison, adding: "I saw they were people just like us." [10] [30]

Franklin was executed at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri on November 20, 2013. The execution began at 6:07 AM CST and he was pronounced dead at 6:17 AM. [27] His execution was the first lethal injection in Missouri to use pentobarbital alone instead of the conventional three drug cocktail. [28]

An Associated Press agency report said that 5 g of the barbiturate pentobarbital was administered. Franklin was pronounced dead ten minutes later. [31]

Three media witnesses said Franklin did not seem to show pain. He did not make any final written statement and did not speak a word in the death chamber. After the injection, he blinked a few times, breathed heavily a few times, and swallowed hard, the witnesses said. The heaving of his chest slowed, and finally stopped, they said. [32]

Representation in other media

Hunter (1989), a novel by the white supremacist William L. Pierce, chronicles the story of serial killer Oscar Yeager, a fictional racist who commits the murders of numerous interracial couples. [33] Pierce, founder of the National Alliance and author of another racist novel, The Turner Diaries , dedicated the book to Joseph Paul Franklin, [34] and said of Franklin that "he saw his duty as a white man and did what a responsible son of his race must do." [35] [36]

See also

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Further reading