Man convicted of 1980 racial killing at Liberty Park gets execution date in Missouri
SALT LAKE CITY — Just days prior to the 33rd anniversary of the deaths of two black men gunned down by a sniper in Liberty Park because of their race, an execution date has been set for the man who killed them.
The Missouri Supreme Court announced this week that Joseph Paul Franklin, 63, will be executed by lethal injection Nov. 20. Franklin was given the death sentence in that state in 1997, on top of six life sentences he faced in other states after his cross-country killing spree targeting Jews and blacks.
In Utah, Franklin was convicted of killing David Martin, 18, and Ted Fields, 20, as well as violating their civil rights. Martin and Fields drew the sniper's attention on Aug. 20, 1980, because they were black and they were jogging with white women.
Franklin, a drifter from Alabama, was also convicted of the 1977 sniper shooting of Gerald Gordon as a crowd dispersed from a bar mitzvah at the Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel Congregation in suburban St. Louis. Two others were wounded. He has said he tried to start a race war by traveling the country shooting people.
When he confessed in 1994 to the shooting, he was serving several life sentences in a federal prison for the killings of Martin and Fields, as well as that of an interracial couple in Madison, Wis., and the bombing of a synagogue in Chattanooga, Tenn.
David Martin's mother, Johnnie Mae Martin, recounted her feelings about her son's death last month at a rally protesting the not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman, who was put on trial in Florida for the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. She was among those who argued the teen died as the result of racial profiling.
In the case of her son's death, however, she believes justice was served.
"I think it was," she said. "We went through hell, but it was served."
Even three decades later, Johnnie Mae Martin said she can't understand the kind of hate that drove Franklin to kill.
"There's no reason for it, no reason for all this hate and envy," she said. "You always think you're going first, and having to look down into that casket and seeing your child lying there, it's really hard."
Contributing: The Associated Press
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