Convicted Killer Put To DeathMICHAEL L. GRACZYK , Associated Press
Nov. 3, 1988 1:52 AM ET
HUNTSVILLE, TEXAS HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) _ Convicted killer Donald Gene Franklin, once described by his own attorney as the most hated man in San Antonio, was put to death by injection early Thursday for the 1975 abduction-slaying of a nurse.
Franklin's hope for a reprieve ended Wednesday when the U.S. Supreme Court joined lower courts and refused, on a 7-2 vote, to grant him a stay.
Franklin made no final statement before doctors administered the lethal injection at the Texas Department of Corrections' Walls Unit here. As the drugs flowed into his body, he coughed seven times and gasped once. His eyes never closed and his mouth remained slightly open.
He was pronounced dead at 12:30 a.m., officials said.
The execution was the 102nd in the nation since 1976 and the first since July 28, when James Messer Jr. was electrocuted in Georgia for murdering his 8-year-old niece.
Franklin, who had three trials and saw his execution postponed four times, was put to death for the July 1975 death of Mary Margaret ''Peggy'' Moran.
''He just told me he was framed for something he didn't do,'' fellow death row inmate Johnny Penry said Wednesday. For years, Franklin, 37, has refused requests to be interviewed by reporters.
Department of Corrections officials described Franklin as calm during his wait in a small cell adjacent to the death chamber.
Penry, however, who saw Franklin earlier in the week, described him as uptight.
''He's not calm,'' Penry said. ''He's worried about what's going to happen to him.''
Franklin's case virtually halted all Texas executions for about a year when the Supreme Court agreed to consider his challenge to the state's capital punishment law.
But in June the court ruled 6-3 to reject his claim that jurors unfairly were not allowed to consider mitigating circumstances when deciding his punishment.
''I think for so long everyone was so concerned about Franklin's rights, I really felt Peggy's rights got lost in the process,'' Patricia Crawford, Ms. Moran's mother, said. ''I know I'm not at peace. I feel Peggy is not at peace. ... I hope some day - and I hope it's (Wednesday) night - we can have peace and have relief.''
The disappearance of Ms. Moran from a San Antonio hospital in July 1975 prompted a highly publicized, citywide search. She was found in a vacant lot five days after her abduction, nude and bleeding from multiple stab wounds and barely alive. She died later in a hospital.
''I have nightmares about that - wondering what went through her mind those days,'' her mother said.
Franklin, who was on parole for a rape conviction when he was arrested, consistently denied any involvement in Ms. Moran's death and blamed it on a friend.
Eyewitnesses, however, provided his license plate number from a car they saw speeding away from the hospital. Police found the nurse's belongings in his garbage can, and blood found on his clothing matched Ms. Moran's.
''This is a case I use as the classic circumstantial evidence case,'' said Bill Harris, a Bexar County district attorney who handled Franklin's case. ''We had overwhelming evidence. It's an appropriate case for the death penalty and he's an appropriate subject.''
''The worst part, in my mind, is that Franklin is the most hated man in San Antonio, at least in recent history,'' said Allen Cazier, who defended Franklin at his third trial.
Cazier said clients dropped him as an attorney when they discovered he represented Franklin, and he and his wife were threatened. Franklin's appellate attorneys tell similar stories.
''People here take it very personally for some reason,'' said George Scharmen, one of Franklin's lawyers. ''It's not good public relations for your law practice.''
Only one Texas inmate, Robert Streetman in January, preceded Franklin to the death chamber this year; nationwide, eight convicts have been executed in 1988.
With Franklin's execution, 102 people have been executed since the Supreme Court cleared the way for capital punishment to resume in 1976, including 27 in Texas, more than any other state.