Larry Flynt wrote in a recent essay that he wished for an hour with the man who shot and paralyzed him on the steps of a courthouse in Georgia in 1978 — along with “a pair of wire-cutters and pliers, so I could inflict the same damage on him that he inflicted on me.”
But Flynt, 71, publisher of Hustler Magazine, is joining an effort to stop Missouri from executing his assailant, Joseph Paul Franklin, for another crime.
Franklin, 63, is set to die Nov. 20 for the 1977 sniper killing of Gerald Gordon, 42, outside a Richmond Heights synagogue. Franklin has confessed to eight murders and the nonfatal shootings of Flynt and civil rights leader Vernon Jordan, and is suspected in eight other killings.
Flynt, represented by a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, sued Saturday in federal court in Kansas City. He invoked a First Amendment right to view sealed documents that might identify an anesthesiologist on the execution team.
Flynt argues that he has an interest because of his attack by Franklin, a white supremacist upset that Hustler published pornographic images of an interracial couple.
In a recent article in The Hollywood Reporter, Flynt said, “As I see it, the sole motivating factor behind the death penalty is vengeance, not justice, and I firmly believe that a government that forbids killing among its citizens should not be in the business of killing people itself.”
His motion notes that while the Missouri Department of Corrections says its doctor is certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology, that organization’s rules say a member “should not participate in an execution.”
Flynt writes that the doctor is therefore “either lying about being board certified, or lacks the professional standing required to maintain certification.”
No representative of the corrections department could be reached for comment Monday.
In 2005, a federal judge temporarily halted the state’s use of the death penalty, after the surgeon in charge testified that he was dyslexic, sometimes confused numbers and did not follow written procedures. A Post-Dispatch investigation revealed that the doctor also had faced disciplinary issues and multiple malpractice lawsuits, and made false statements in court.
The Legislature reacted by making it unlawful to reveal the identities of the execution team. The ACLU is challenging that law in federal court.
Prison officials exceeded the judge’s requirements by writing a five-page execution manual that put an anesthesiologist in a supervisory position. The state executed murderers Dennis Skillicorn in 2009 and Martin Link in 2011.
More recently, pharmaceutical makers have stopped selling drugs for lethal injections, and Missouri is one of several states left scrambling for alternatives.
The ACLU sued the state this month for records of its inventory of propofol, an anesthetic the state planned to use to execute murderers Allen Nicklasson on Oct. 23 and Franklin on Nov. 20.
The records showed the supplier of some of the propofol, Morris & Dickson, of Shreveport, La., had pleaded with the state nearly a year ago to return vials it shipped in violation of its agreement with the manufacturer, Fresenius Kabi, of Germany, not to provide the drug for capital punishment.
The state returned the drug after the ACLU put the records on its website. But Missouri still had propofol that was manufactured by Hospira and supplied by Mercer Medical, of suburban Seattle.
Then Hospira demanded its propofol back, too, saying it had not authorized the sale to Mercer Medical. Gov. Jay Nixon postponed the Nicklasson execution and ordered the department to develop a new protocol.
Within days, the state announced it would obtain pentobarbital, commonly used to euthanize pets, from a compounding pharmacy that would remain secret.
Jeffrey A. Mittman, the ACLU-Missouri’s executive director, said, “There has been far too much secrecy clouding the state’s execution plans already, which makes it difficult to trust that the state is acting on our behalf in an ethical manner.”