Hustler publisher Larry Flynt doesn’t want the man who shot and permanently paralyzed him to be executed. Joseph Paul Franklin has been sentenced by the Missouri Supreme Court to death by lethal injection on Nov. 20, and Flynt has writes about it in a guest column for the Hollywood Reporter.
“I have every reason to be overjoyed with this decision, but I am not,” Flynt states. “I have had many years in this wheelchair to think about this very topic. As I see it, the sole motivating factor behind the death penalty is vengeance, not justice, and I firmly believe that a government that forbids killing among its citizens should not be in the business of killing people itself.”
Flynt was shot by Franklin on March 6, 1978, outside a Georgia courthouse as the Hustler publisher battled obscenity charges related to his magazine. The incident left Flynt permanently paralyzed from the waist down. He’s been in a wheelchair ever since.
Joseph Paul Franklin, a white supremacist and serial killer, confessed to the shooting years later when he was being held for other crimes. He was never charged with shooting Flynt. Franklin was reportedly motivated by the fact that Hustler ran a photo spread depicting an interracial couple having sex.
“In all the years since the shooting, I have never come face-to-face with Franklin,” Flynt writes in THR. “I would love an hour in a room with him and a pair of wire-cutters and pliers, so I could inflict the same damage on him that he inflicted on me. But, I do not want to kill him, nor do I want to see him die.”
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Chief among his reasons for not supporting Franklin’s execution is the fact that Flynt doesn’t believe that capital punishment is a deterrent to violent crime.
“In 18th century England, pickpocketing was a capital offense,” Flynt writes. “Once a week, crowds would gather in a public square to observe public hangings of convicted pickpockets, unaware that their own pockets were being emptied by thieves moving among them. That’s a true story, and, if you’re ever trying to convince somebody of why the death penalty is not a deterrent, that’s a good example.”
Flynt thinks that life imprisonment is a far more severe punishment than execution. He also feels that capital punishment is far too costly for the American taxpayer.
“Execution has been proven to be far more expensive for the state than a conviction of life without parole, due to the long and complex judicial process required for capital cases,” Flynt states.
While he’s best known for founding Hustler, Flynt is also a noted proponent of free speech. In 1983, he won a landmark Supreme Court decision after being sued by Reverend Jerry Falwell when Hustler ran a parody ad interview that said Falwell had a sexual encounter with his mother in an outhouse.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment prohibits public figures from collecting damages for “intentional infliction of emotional distress” based on a parody.
Despite their bitter history, Flynt and Falwell later became friends. When Falwell died in May 2007, Flynt memorialized his friend and ideological rival in an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times.
“He was definitely selling brimstone religion and would do anything to add another member to his mailing list,” Flynt wrote. “But in the end, I knew what he was selling, and he knew what I was selling, and we found a way to communicate.”