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I SHOT VERNON JORDAN, FRANKLIN SAYS

Published: Monday, April 8 1996 12:00 a.m. MDT

The man acquitted of the 1980 sniper shooting of civil rights leader Vernon E. Jordan Jr. in Fort Wayne says the jury made a mistake, and he detailed how he committed the crime in a newspaper report published Sunday.

Joseph Paul Franklin, 45, already is serving six life sentences plus 31 years in prison for murder, including two in Salt Lake City. He sits in the St. Louis County Jail in Missouri awaiting trial on yet another slaying.Between July 29, 1977, and Aug. 20, 1980, authorities say Franklin roamed through the Midwest, South and West with his rifle and telescopic sights, gunning down as many as 20 people.

Franklin said he was acting on white supremacist beliefs that he no longer holds.

"I was the executioner, the judge and the jury," the pale, bespectacled Franklin told The Indianapolis Star and The Indianapolis News in a February interview at the St. Louis jail. "I was on a holy war against evil-doers."

To him, that included blacks, Jews and interracial couples he encountered in Utah, Missouri, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia and

Tennessee. He also said he shot and wounded Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt in Georgia in 1978 because Flynt had published sexually explicit photographs of a racially mixed couple.

In the interview with The Star, Franklin for the first time revealed how he shot Jordan, who was then president of the National Urban League.

Franklin said he had come to Fort Wayne from Chicago after failing to stalk and kill Jesse Jackson.

In the northeast Indiana city, Franklin said he hoped to target "race mixers." But after hearing a news broadcast that Jordan would be speaking at Fort Wayne's Marriott Hotel, Franklin decided to go after Jordan instead.

Franklin said he learned Jordan was staying in a corner room at the hotel, waited for dark and parked his car beside a nearby highway. He raised the hood to look like he had car trouble, then waited in the grass with his hunting rifle, about 140 feet from his target.

Late that evening, a car parked near the room, and a black man got out on the passenger side into the lighted parking lot.

Franklin said he didn't know if it was Jordan, but he fired anyway, sending a 30.06 bullet into Jordan's back near his spine. The wound was so large, a surgeon later said he could put his fist into it.

In 1982, an all-white federal jury acquitted Franklin of violating Jordan's civil rights in the attack. The judge at the time noted that several witnesses had credibility problems.

That jury was wrong, Franklin said.

Christina McKee, an assistant U.S. prosecutor in Indianapolis, said Franklin cannot be retried because of the Constitution's protection against double jeopardy.

Before the shootings, Franklin had a history of ties to white supremacist groups. As a teenager in the Washington, D.C., area, he joined the National Socialist White People's Party and in 1973 joined the National State's Rights Party.

In 1976, he joined a Ku Klux Klan branch called the United Klans of America and became an organizer for the group.

Born James Clayton Vaughn, he said he also changed his name to Joseph Paul Franklin to honor Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and American patriot Benjamin Franklin.

In 1977, Franklin began his cross-country ambush spree, supporting himself by robbing banks. In 1981, he was captured and convicted in both state and federal courts in Utah of killing two black men out on an evening jog with two white women.

Along the way, he murdered an interracial couple in Madison, Wis., in 1977, and shot down two black men in Indianapolis in separate attacks in January of 1980.

Franklin said he abandoned his racist views in 1985 after taking up meditation, but The Star reported that he still peppers his conversations with anti-black and anti-Semitic remarks.

And while Franklin claims to believe in the Bible, the Koran and a mix of eastern religions, he sees no contradiction between those teachings and his murder spree.

"King David was a warrior," he said. "The prophets were not sissies. They were killers and warriors."

Franklin now awaits trial for the sniper murder of a man outside a Missouri synagogue and the wounding of his friend, which The Star said he admitted to. If convicted, Franklin faces the death penalty.

"They have enough evidence to convict me," he said. But he said he's not afraid of the death penalty.

"I am very pro death penalty," he said. "Especially because I consider it good. It is mentioned in the Bible."

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