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Al Behrman, Associated Press
Joseph Paul Franklin sits in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court on Oct. 21, 1998, as the jury verdict is read, finding him guilty of murdering two black teenagers in 1980. Franklin is scheduled to be executed early Wednesday in Missouri.

ST. LOUIS — A federal judge in Missouri has given a stay of execution to white supremacist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin just hours before his scheduled death.

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U.S. District Court Judge Nanette Laughrey ruled late Tuesday afternoon that a lawsuit filed by Franklin and 20 other death-row inmates challenging Missouri's execution protocol must first be resolved.

The 63-year-old inmate was scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for killing 42-year-old Gerald Gordon in a sniper attack outside a suburban St. Louis synagogue in 1977.

It was one of as many as 20 killings committed by Franklin, who targeted blacks and Jews in a cross-country killing spree from 1977 to 1980.