fact, opinion and poetry (not airy-fairy)

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Race Hate Killer

Joe Franklin left no word behind
When he was executed.
Withheld the last thoughts in his mind,
His sentence not commuted.
They stuck the needle in his arm,
With intent to do him harm,
And sent him on his way.

Did he just not want to share?
Or had he finally ceased to care?
When held awaiting execution,
He made a thorough recantation,
Of all his race hate murder views.
Yet somehow that didn't make the news,
The way his final silence did.

He'd been in jail for thirty-three years,
When they finally killed him off;
Prosecutors boasted of justice done:
Please excuse me while I scoff.
The wizened old man they put to death,
Was different from the hard young thug
Who stole his victims breath.

They used a cunning sexual lure
To draw forth fatal confessions.
Hard to see a motive pure
When they mingle the professions 
Of prosecutor and prostitute.
The Supreme Court failed to refute
A very unsafe conviction.

He'd been in jail for sixteen years
When the Missouri siren came.
He unwisely had no fears,
Boasted he was to blame.
He thought he'd be in jail for life,
Wasn't warned he was in danger;
Shot off his mouth, to impress a beautiful stranger.

His doctor said that he was crazy,
Confessing to crimes he didn't commit.
Were the prosecutors lazy
Or did they just not give a shit?
In either case, they didn't solve the case.
Their devious and lethal acts are base;
They're much the same as him.

His victim Larry Flynt spoke out,
Against his fatal sentence.
But Larry's views didn't carry clout.
His ranting didn't make much sense,
As he raved of crippling Franklin instead
Of the State's idea to strike him dead.
So Missouri killed him as they wanted.

Franklin killed both Jews and blacks,
In a series of deadly attacks.
It seems he tried to start race war,
Unleashed a mini wave of gore.
Yet in the end his acts were futile:
No man alone could corpses pile
High enough to make a difference.

Like Breivik he was willing to act,
While others merely warmed the air;
But his killings proved useless in fact,
As no-one really seemed to care.
These one-man wars are truly quixotic,
Though they aren't always psychotic.
Political strife means nothing without results.

The world is full of tough guy talkers,
Boasting of all the killings they'll do.
Most are only keyboard warriors,
Or blowhards babbling over beer.
Breivik and Franklin are a kind of victim,
The only ones who were too dim
To know the others didn't mean it.

They thought they were striking a match
In a gunpowder magazine.
But there was a fatal catch:
A problem they had not foreseen.
The others were like empty barrels,
So the violence did not go viral:
The rest were only play-acting.

This story first caught my attention when I saw the headline 'Executed man leaves no final word'.
I read of his death, and found his lack of a 'dying declaration' tantalising. Was his repentance 
genuine? It had been published in a Mid-Western newspaper a scant week before his death. I 
wanted him to leave a final word, either confirming it, or admitting he had been needle-ducking, and
was still an unrepentant Nazi. But he didn't. I could think of a myriad reasons for his silence, and it 
got under my skin. Perhaps he thought his newspaper interview was an adequate final word? If so 
he was wrong. Not for the first time.
      I was also struck by Larry Flynt's principled opposition to his execution. Franklin had shot 
him for publishing pictures of inter-racial sex in Hustler magazine, leaving him wheel-chair bound. 
Flynt said: “a government that forbids killing among its citizens should not be in the business of 
killing people itself.” This made a deep impression on me. If only he could have confined himself to 
that without ranting about crippling Franklin, he might have had more influence.
      It was only when I started fact-checking, after completing the poem, that I found out 
about the dodgy conviction. He was sitting in jail in Utah, serving life without parole, when a 
Missouri prosecutor, Melissa Powers, wrote and asked to see him. At the time, she moonlighted as 
a glamour model, and was a bit of a blonde bombshell. He asked her to send a photo, then agreed 
to see her. She was probably the first woman he had seen in 16 years. He boasted of various crimes
to her, as she wanted. He was not warned she was planning to kill him. He already had, as far as I 
can tell, a reputation as an unreliable confessor, and been diagnosed as mentally ill.
      If he was, in fact, a paranoid schizophrenic, he may well have had psychotic delusions of 
having committed crimes which he had not. He had, as a child, been violently abused by his 
drunkard father, and may have had concussion sequelae as well. A lot of serial killers have major 
brain abnormalities. Not a few confess to crimes they didn't commit. The Crossbow Cannibal made 
up tales of invented murders. Myra Hindley confessed to killing someone who was still alive. We will
never know if he killed the man he was executed for.
      He had confessed to another crime for which someone else, a man named Beard, had 
already been convicted. Beard was eventually released, with great reluctance. It's clear that law 
enforcement didn't accept Franklin's confession in that case. They accepted them when it suited.
      What the Missouri prosecutors show no insight into, is their similarity to him. They both:
1) Decided that someone else's conduct was unacceptable;
2) Determined to kill those persons for it;
3) Carried out the killing in a way which required absolute dedication;
4) Used deceit to obtain the goal.
      The main difference is that he has made a show of repentance, and they have not.

      The complexity of this topic makes it problematic for poetry. I did not know this when I 
started out. The poem grew and grew as I learned more. It could easily be twice the length.

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