OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A white supremacist wanted to explain to jurors Monday his motive for killing three people at Jewish sites in suburban Kansas City, but a judge told him the first phase of the capital murder trial was to focus solely on whether he committed the crimes — not why.
Frazier Glenn Miller, who is representing himself, made it only a few words into the first sentence of his opening statement before assistant District Attorney Chris McMullin objected and jurors were removed from the courtroom.
Miller, 74, of Aurora, Missouri, had told Johnson County Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan earlier that he twice offered to plead guilty to first-degree murder if prosecutors would take the death penalty off the table, but they refused. He started to tell jurors of those failed offers before McMullin spoke up.
"If he wants to confess, that's fine, but we can't talk about things not in evidence," the prosecutor said after jurors left the room. "If the state said that, there would be an immediate mistrial. We don't want a mistrial."
At multiple hearings leading up to the trial, Miller had admitted that he killed William Corporon, 69, and Corporon's 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, and Terri LaManno, 53, at the nearby Village Shalom retirement center on April 13, 2014. None of the three was Jewish.
The prosecutor began his opening statement with what he said was a quote from Miller as he was sitting in a police car in a parking lot where he was found shortly after the shootings:
"My name's Glenn Miller, I am an anti-Semite, I hate goddamned Jews. How many did I get?"
McMullin graphically described the wounds Corporon and Underwood suffered as they were hit in the head with shotgun blasts at point-blank range. He spoke of LaManno being frozen in fear as Miller pulled a shotgun from the trunk of his car after a different gun failed to fire.
Miller, also known as Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., has said he is suffering from chronic emphysema and wanted to kill Jewish people before he died. He also has said he didn't know all three of the victims were Christians, or that the teenage victim was so young.
He argued that if he couldn't convince jurors he had a valid reason for his actions, there was no way he would be acquitted. Ryan responded that the present phase of the trial was not the place to present evidence of his intentions, but to determine whether he committed capital murder.
The prosecution's first witnesses testified Monday about what they saw at the Jewish Community Center.
Paul Temme said he was planning to work out at the center's gym when he heard loud noises and a woman warned that someone was shooting. He told jurors he saw a car driving away and tried to chase it to get a license plate, but the car turned and started coming toward him.
Temme said he thought one shot was fired at him, but Miller corrected him on cross-examination that there were two.
Another witness, James Coombes, described ducking down in his SUV as a man fired several shots at his vehicle. In addition to several bullets hitting the SUV, one hit a satchel Coombes had draped over his shoulder.
"I'm glad I didn't shoot you," Miller told him.
Prosecutors objected, and jurors were told to disregard Miller's extraneous comments and focus solely on the evidence.
Ryan had also told Miller earlier that he couldn't present to jurors his belief that the mainstream media and the Federal Reserve are controlled by Jews, or argue that Jewish people are committing genocide against the white race.
"You are telling me that I don't have a chance at all of being found not guilty?" Miller said. "I want to present my defense and explain why I did what I did."
Ryan warned Miller that he was risking a mistrial if he persisted in ignoring his demand to stick with evidence of guilt or innocence.
Miller, who has no formal legal training or significant courtroom experience, fired his three defense attorneys in May. If convicted he could be sentenced to death.