ST. LOUIS., Mo. -- A federal judge in Missouri has granted a stay of execution to serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin, a white supremacist, just hours before his scheduled death.U.S. District Court Judge Nanette Laughery ruled late Tuesday afternoon 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 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.
The judge's ruling criticizes the timing of the state's changes to how it administers capital punishment, specifically its plan to use for the first time ever a single drug, pentobarbital, made for the first time in Missouri by a compounding pharmacy.
Laughrey wrote that the Missouri Department of Corrections "has not provided any information about the certification, inspection history, infraction history, or other aspects of the compounding pharmacy or of the person compounding the drug." She noted that the execution protocol, which has changed repeatedly, "has been a frustratingly moving target."
It wasn't immediately clear whether the state would appeal the ruling. Messages left with the state attorney general's office were not returned.