The racist acquitted 14 years ago in a sniper attack on Vernon Jordan says he did indeed commit the crime, and he has detailed for the first time how he ambushed the civil rights leader in the dark.
Joseph Paul Franklin, 45, already is serving six life sentences plus 31 years for murder. He is in jail in St. Louis, awaiting trial in yet another slaying.
In a jailhouse interview with The Indianapolis Star, Franklin said he went to Fort Wayne from Chicago in 1980 after failing in an attempt to stalk and kill Jesse Jackson.
In Fort Wayne, Franklin said, he hoped to target “race mixers.” But after hearing on the news that Jordan would be speaking at the Marriott Hotel, Franklin decided to go after Jordan, then president of the Urban League.
Franklin said he learned Jordan was staying in a corner room at the hotel, so he parked next to a highway, raised the hood to make it look as if he had car trouble, and waited in the grass with his hunting rifle, about 140 feet from his target.
Late that evening, a car parked near the room and a black man got out into the lighted parking lot. Franklin said he didn’t know if it was Jordan, but he fired anyway. Jordan was shot in the back, near the spine.
Jordan recovered and now practices law in the Washington area.
In 1982, an all-white federal jury acquitted Franklin of violating Jordan’s civil rights. The judge noted that several witnesses had credibility problems.
A state prosecutor declined to file charges against Franklin at the time of the shooting, citing lack of evidence. Franklin cannot be retried on the federal charges because of the Constitution’s protection against double jeopardy.
From 1977 to 1980, authorities say, Franklin roamed the Midwest, the South and the West with his rifle and telescopic sights. Franklin has been convicted in four deaths, charged in five others and has admitted to, or is suspected in, five more.
Franklin said he was acting on white supremacist beliefs that he no longer holds.