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Ahead of Wednesday execution, Death Penalty Opponents Hold Vigil for Crime Victims

MADP vigil against death penalty
Missouri fo Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP) hold vigil at Park Central Square in Springfield-Photo Credit: Theresa Bettmann

Update 8:02 a.m. Wednesday. White supremacist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin was put to death Wednesday morning in Bonne Terre. Franklin’s lethal injection came after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition seeking a stay of execution.

A federal appeals court in Missouri had earlier upheld the execution, restoring the state's plans to kill Franklin just hours after the execution was blocked.

Update: 5:35 p.m. A federal judge in Missouri has at least temporarily halted the execution of white supremacist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin. In a ruling issued late Tuesday afternoon, District Court Judge Nanette Laughrey said that a lawsuit filed by Franklin and 21 other death-row inmates challenging Missouri's execution protocol must first be resolved. The 63-year-old inmate had been scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a statewide organization that disagrees with all forms of violence, including the death penalty, gathered in Springfield earlier Tuesday.  KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann was there.

Original story:

At 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, white supremacist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin is scheduled to be executed for the killing of Gerald Gordon in 1977. It was one of more than 20 killings he committed in a cross-country killing spree over a three year period.  On Tuesday, a statewide organization that disagrees with all forms of violence, including the death penalty, gathered in Springfield.  KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann was there.

[sound outdoors and classical music playing]

Classical music plays under a sunny afternoon sky while a pesky breeze twists among the many protesters’ signs.  This peaceful demonstration is put together by the local chapter of Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP), which is affiliated with the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Donna Walmsly is the local organization spokesperson.

“Today we are having a vigil service and it’s scheduled today because tomorrow, early in the morning, a Missouri resident is scheduled to be executed by our state.  We don’t believe in the use of violence to prevent further violent crime,” Walmsley says.

The vigil, Walmsly says, is to remember all victims of violent crime, including those who face the death penalty. She says the group’s mission is to educate and advocate to legislators and the general public for alternative methods of punishment.  

“There are much more appropriate, humane and useful alternatives.  Especially life without parole that will cost a lot less money and will, we think, will be much more in line with the type of society that Dr. Martin Luther King and many others have hoped that we will become,” says Walmsly.

Some citizens who witnessed the protest had a different opinion on the death penalty.

[sound comments of those for and against]

“I definitely agree with the death penalty for certain [crimes] especially for those offenders who went out there and killed innocent people.”

“I’m honestly against it, I don’t believe in taking a life for a life.”

“I am definitely opposed to the death penalty.”

“I’m for it as long as they’ve got 100 percent proof that the person is actually guilty.”

That was Anna, Sean, Sue and a woman who chose to remain anonymous.  The last statement about proof of guilt is a crucial area MADP strives to point out.  They say they don’t want to see innocent people executed when wrongfully convicted. 

Walmsly says the death penalty does not make us safer, does not deter crime, costs more than life imprisonment, and ultimately does not bring relief or justice to the victims’ families.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, a state-by-state execution database, 68 people have been executed in Missouri since 1976.  The last execution was carried out in 2011.

For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.