Related topics

Court Orders New Trial for Joseph Paul Franklin

July 23, 1985

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ A convicted killer who told a jury that he blew up an Orthodox synagogue has been granted a new trial on grounds that his closing statement should have been blocked.

The state Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday ordered a retrial for Joseph Paul Franklin, convicted a year ago in the 1977 bombing of the Beth Sholom synagogue. Gina Barham, a spokeswoman for state Attorney General Mike Cody, said the state has not decided whether to take the case to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Franklin was sentenced earlier to life in prison on state murder and federal civil rights charges in the slayings of two black joggers in Utah. He was in the federal prison at Marion, Ill., when he confessed last year to the bombing, telling officers, ″I was trying to kill as many Jews as I could.″

Franklin, 35, also was indicted last year in the 1978 shooting in Lawrenceville, Ga., that left Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt paralyzed. The indictment is pending.

The Chattanooga synagogue was blown up on July 29, 1977, when the building was empty following religious services earlier in the evening. An explosive was placed below the floor and detonated when an extension cord was plugged into an exterior outlet at a nearby motel.

State and federal authorities had closed the investigation when Franklin confessed from prison.

Tried in manacles, Franklin was convicted July 12, 1984, after telling the jury in a closing statement, ″I bombed the synagogue.″

He was sentenced to 15 to 21 years for destroying a building and six to 10 years for possessing explosives, and was returned to the federal prison in Illinois.

The Court of Criminal Appeals opinion, written by Special Judge John D. Templeton, held that Criminal Court Judge Douglas A. Meyer ″improperly allowed appellant (Franklin) to participate″ in the closing statement to the jury.

If a defendant is represented by a lawyer, as Franklin was, he generally is prevented from speaking at his trial except as a witness, the court said.

The Court of Criminal Appeals rejected seven other arguments by Franklin for a new trial, including his contention that his confession was false and made in hopes he would be transferred from the federal prison at Marion.

When he was interviewed by Chattanooga officers on Feb. 29, 1984, the appellate opinion said, Franklin recounted in detail the bombing of a residence in Maryland, an attempted bombing of a political party office in Atlanta, and bank robberies in Chattanooga and Maryland.

In less detail, the court said, he described robbing banks in Nashville, Knoxville, Atlanta and Columbus, Ohio, two killings in Wisconsin and lesser crimes.

Update hourly