A life sentence is smarter and more just than execution

Updated: 2013-11-18T03:49:21Z


The Kansas City Star

If there was a club for racist serial killers, Joseph Paul Franklin would be president.

Preferably, he’d hold the title for life, as in “life without parole.”

But given that this unrepentant, heinous murderer was convicted in Missouri, the state will exhaust all avenues to kill him for you. They will do it even if that means jeopardizing medications that are commonly used by physicians.

This ethical decision once surrounded propofol. But then European manufacturers of the anesthetic balked at its use in executions. And doctors worried the controversy would limit their access for life-saving work. So, the quest to find a new drug has moved on.

Pentobarbital is Missouri’s drug of choice now.

Franklin is scheduled to die Wednesday from a lethal injection of it. But his execution is entangled by the legal swirl around Missouri’s quest to keep the company supplying the drug a secret. Lawyers are seeking to stay the execution based on the constitutional standard against cruel and unusual punishment. They argue that there are fewer ways to monitor the safety of compounded drugs, such as pentobarbital, which are not highly regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

But here is an over-arching argument, the one people ought not to dodge: The death penalty is state-sanctioned murder. Missouri is carrying out murder on behalf of taxpayers. Many people are fine with that, applaud it even, either for revenge or because they wrongly believe the threat of execution alone can keep the murderous from acting in the first place. Maybe they don’t realize how much more expensive these cases are, compared with locking someone up forever.

Either way, the state shouldn’t be able to hide significant details to avoid public scrutiny. Taxpayers have a right to know. The death penalty is too important an issue for state officials to shield information about the company providing it just to guard against backlash. When people don’t have to think deeply about the death penalty, it makes it that much easier to turn a blind eye.

It’s murder, as much as what Franklin committed. He claims to be the shooter who paralyzed Larry Flynt. He was angry because Flynt depicted interracial couples in his magazine. Franklin was proud of killing Jews and African-Americans.

He deserves a life locked up, a long punishment for his prejudice-fueled crimes. And Missouri is where he should serve it.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to

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