Court Puts Flynt v. Executioners to Rest

By William Vogeler, Esq. on March 16, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Larry Flint became famous for pornography and later for litigation.

The long-time publisher came out from the shadows of Hustler magazine in People v. Flynt, which played out in a movie by the same name. "You may not like what he does, but are you prepared to give up his right to do it?" the tagline says.

Nearly 50 years later, Flynt is still doing it. This time he is litigating for access to records of state-sponsored executions in Flynt v. Lombardi.

Executioner's Rights

Flynt sued for public disclosure of the qualifications of medical executioners for the Missouri Department of Corrections. A trial judge ruled in 2016 that the state had a compelling interest to keep that information private.

The U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, saying the execution team members' privacy rights outweighed the public's right to know. Disclosure would "effectively eviscerate the State's ability to carry out executions by jeopardizing its ability to have medical professionals on the execution team," the appeals panel said.

"Flynt's stated rationale for wanting this information -- to check the professional credentials of these members -- is in direct and perilous conflict with the State's superior rationale of protecting the identity of these parties," the judges said.

Isn't that why executioners used to wear hoods? And why does Larry Flynt care anyway?

Date with Death

Flynt has a history with the capital punishment in Missouri. It began in 1978 after he was shot and paralyzed.

Joseph Paul Franklin confessed to the crime, but was never prosecuted. In part, that's because he was executed for murder in a separate case.

As for Flynt's case against the executioners, there will be no sequel. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal.

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