Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Monday denied a clemency request for white supremacist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin, calling his crime a "cowardly and calculated shooting."
Franklin, 63, is 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. He was convicted of seven other murders but the Missouri case was the only one resulting in a death sentence.
The execution would be the first in Missouri in nearly three years and the first ever in the state to use a single execution drug, the sedative pentobarbital.
"This cowardly and calculated shooting was only one of many senseless acts of extreme violence that Franklin, motivated by racial and religious intolerance, committed against numerous victims across the country - from Tennessee and Ohio to Utah and Wisconsin," Nixon said in a statement.
Franklin's attorney, Jennifer Herndon, said she was disappointed by the governor's decision.
Herndon has spent the days leading up to the execution asking various courts and the governor to intervene. Clemency from Nixon, a Democrat, seemed a long shot given his long history of support for the death penalty. He was also attorney general in 1997 when Franklin was tried, convicted and sentenced in the St. Louis County case.
However, Nixon did issue a stay last month, days before convicted killer Allen Nicklasson was scheduled to die. That decision was in response to concerns raised about Missouri's plan to use propofol as the lethal drug. The European Union had threatened to limit export if propofol was used in the execution, potentially creating a nationwide shortage of the popular anesthetic.
The Missouri Department of Corrections revised its protocol days later, changing to pentobarbital that will be made through a compounding pharmacy. Because the compounding pharmacy is part of the execution team, few details about it have been made public.
Herndon's motion before the Missouri Supreme Court raised concerns about what could happen if the drug doesn't work properly, potentially leaving the inmate in pain or brain-damaged but not dead.
Franklin traveled the country on a killing spree from 1977 to 1980. He is believed responsible for up to 20 killings and was convicted in 8 murders. The St. Louis County killing was the only case that landed him on death row.
Franklin was given the death penalty for killing a man outside a suburban St. Louis synagogue in 1977, but has also been convicted of killing an interracial couple in Madison, Wis., in 1977, and killing two black joggers in Salt Lake City in 1980. He bombed a Chattanooga, Tenn., synagogue in 1977, but it was empty by the time the bomb went off. He was convicted of killing two black cousins, ages 13 and 14, in 1980 in Cincinnati, shooting from a highway overpass as the boys walked to a convenience store.