Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster may not have to bring back the gas chamber after all.
His office announced yesterday that the Missouri Supreme Court has granted the state's motion to set execution dates for two convicted killers who have exhausted all appeals of their death sentences in the state. It's a win for Koster who got national attention last month when he said Missouri might have to resort to the gas chamber, a decades-old execution method, because of prolonged legal battles and the approaching expiration of the state's execution drug supply.
One of the men on death row is Joseph Franklin -- a white supremacist and serial killer who famously shot Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine.
See also: - Attorney General Wants Execution Dates For Two Men On Death Row - Chris Koster Says Gas Chamber May Be Only Option Due To Legal Battles - Missouri Attorney General Calls for Execution of Man Linked to Larry Flynt Shooting
Franklin's execution has been set for November 20, 2013, and Allen Nicklasson, the other individual on death row, now has an execution set for October 23, 2013.
This announcement means the fight to avoid death penalty could finally be over for both men.
Litigation regarding the use of propofol, the state's execution drug, has delayed both executions, and the Supreme Court ruled last August that the attorney general's request for execution dates was premature with the legal battles pending.
"For nearly a decade, the mere pendency of federal litigation has been used as an artificial hurdle, unauthorized by law or federal court order, to prevent the State from carrying out the death penalty," Koster said earlier this summer when he renewed a call to carry out the death penalty.
The gas chamber may be the only alternative, he argued at the time, noting that it is the only other method still on the books, even if it hasn't been used since the 1960s. (Governor Jay Nixon did not endorse the idea.)
This week, Koster is praising the courts for allowing the state to move forward.
"Last month, we renewed our request that the Court set execution dates for convicted murderers Joseph Franklin and Allen Nicklasson," he says in a statement. "We are pleased that the Court has reexamined the issue, and granted the motions. The death penalty remains a legal punishment in our state. By setting these execution dates, the Court has taken an important step to see that justice is finally done for the victims and their families."
Franklin, as we summarized in July, was convicted sixteen years ago for murdering a man named Gerald Gordon, who was standing in the parking lot of a St. Louis synagogue after a bar mitzvah when he was killed. Franklin was also convicted for the murder of two African Americans in Utah, the murder of an interracial couple in Wisconsin and the bombing of a synagogue in Tennessee.
And Franklin has claimed responsibility for shooting Flynt three decades earlier.
Nicklasson was found guilty in 1996 of first-degree murder for the death of Richard Drummond, a Good Samaritan. Drummond had reportedly offered a ride to Nicklasson and two others after their car broke down on Interstate-70; police believe Nicklasson is the one who shot the man dead, though one of the other suspects, Dennis Skillicorn, was executed in Missouri in May of 2009 for his role in the crime.