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FROM VICE.COM: WE SPOKE TO LARRY FLYNT ABOUT THE EXECUTION OF THE MAN WHO SHOT HIM

800px-Larry_Flynt_at_AVN_Adult_Entertainment_Expo_2008Larry Flynt

Larry Flynt has been in the press lately for something a bit more grim than freedom of speech or porn. The 71-year-old media tycoon has been speaking out about the death penalty in America and his opposition to it; the impetus was the scheduled execution of Joseph Paul Franklin, the man who shot Flynt back in 1978, paralyzing him from the waist down. He had attempted to kill Flynt that day, but Flynt lived—although he has now spent as much of his life in a wheelchair as he did walking. The pain from the injuries was constant and lead to a painkiller addiction, which then resulted in an overdose and a stroke that affected his speech. But you could say he’s lucky, because all but one of Franklin’s other targets died from their injuries.

Franklin is now dead too. He was finally executed on November 20 by the state of Missouri—where he spent 15 years on death row—by injection of the controversial drug pentobarbital, which had prior been used to euthanize animals. It was the first time Missouri had used the drug since switching from the standard three-drug execution cocktail to a single-drug injection of propofol (the same drug that killed Michael Jackson) the year before. When supplies of propofol ran low, the state decided to go with pentobarbital, and their test subject was Franklin, who by all accounts seemed to suffer when the drug was administered. Although he had confessed to heinous crimes—including killing two teenagers, and at least six other people—a prominent psychiatrist had diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic, and therefore unfit to stand trial.

Flynt campaigned to halt the execution, suing the state and demanding to unseal documents that would reveal their secretive execution process. He didn’t succeed in saving Franklin’s life; just as Franklin, ironically, did not succeed in taking Flynt’s.

I think about what it must have been like for him that afternoon 35 years ago, feeling two bullets rip through his abdomen. Hunted, like prey, by an unseen sniper in broad daylight; how that must have affected his perception of the world and his surroundings. And yet, Flynt tells me he never felt anger for his attacker, or any anger at all. “I’m an optimist,” he says. And he’s optimistic about something else: That, one day, the practice of punishing murder with murder will become obsolete.

DeathPenalty3Joseph Paul Franklin

VICE: How did you feel when you heard that Joseph Paul Franklin was executed?
Larry Flynt: I had no feelings either way. I’ve been against the death penalty all my life, but it has nothing to do with him. I don’t think the government should be in the business of killing people.

Why have you not spoken about the death penalty before?
It’s always been an opinion of mine, but I’ve never been very vocal about it, because I see the politics as too difficult to change. When I wrote that page for the Hollywood Reporter, I had no idea it was gonna go viral. And all of a sudden, people all over the world wanted to talk to me about the death penalty.

Do you think you will continue to be vocal about it?
I’m not making it a crusade, but I’ll always give my opinion when I asked about it. I have opinions about a lot of things.

What do you think it is about the US that makes us one of the few nations in the world that still actively practice capital punishment?
That’s what bothers me. The biggest proponents in the world of the death penalty are Iran, China and the United States. I just don’t think we should be lumped in the same category as those barbarians. I could support the death penalty if it was a deterrent, but it’s not, and there’s no scientific or historic evidence that indicates that it is a deterrent. You can’t look at it as a punishment to the crime, because if you expel somebody in a few seconds with a lethal injection, the punishment is over with, but if you put somebody in a 4×6 cell for the rest of their lives, they’re going to have a lot of suffering that they’re gonna have to do. So if you really want to make someone suffer, you’re going to have to do better than execute them.

(For full interview, go to vice.com)

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