Crime

F. Glenn Miller Jr. takes over his own defense in Jewish center killings

F. Glenn Miller Jr. on Thursday was granted his request to represent himself as he faces charges in the fatal shootings outside Jewish centers in Overland Park last year. Prosecutors feared a conviction would be overturned if the judge refused his request.
F. Glenn Miller Jr. on Thursday was granted his request to represent himself as he faces charges in the fatal shootings outside Jewish centers in Overland Park last year. Prosecutors feared a conviction would be overturned if the judge refused his request. JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

Unlike the attorneys he fired Thursday, F. Glenn Miller Jr. said he doesn’t care if a jury sentences him to death for allegedly killing three people last year outside Jewish centers in Overland Park.

Miller, who is believed to be the first defendant in a Kansas capital murder case to represent himself, has said on several occasions that he wants a forum to explain his actions. He has previously made anti-Semitic statements.

To ensure he gets that chance, Miller demanded that he be allowed to represent himself despite the advice of his lawyers and a reminder from the judge handling the case that he could be executed if found guilty.

“It’s my life and I’ll do as I please,” he said at a hearing Thursday in Johnson County District Court. “The death penalty don’t bother me.”

In fact, Miller, who is 74 and in ill health, said that after he has the chance to make his case, “I’ll climb up on the gurney and stick the needle in myself.”

Miller, also known as Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., is scheduled to go to trial Aug. 17. Thursday’s hearing was scheduled to take up some of the pretrial motions filed by the three experienced death penalty litigators appointed to represent him.

At the start of the hearing, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe discussed plea negotiations that have taken place. Miller’s lawyers have made offers twice for him to plead guilty and be sentenced to life in prison if the state would take the death penalty off the table, Howe said.

The state declined both times, most recently May 6, Howe said.

Defense attorney Mark Manna then said Miller wished to speak. When District Judge Kelly Ryan indicated he wasn’t going to allow it, Miller then blurted that he wanted to fire his legal team.

Howe said that based on prior court rulings, refusing a defendant’s request to represent himself could lead to a conviction being overturned on appeal.

Ryan called a recess to allow Miller and his lawyers to confer. Back in court, Manna said Miller wanted to act as his own attorney.

Ryan started advising Miller that he would be held to the same standards of conduct and rules of trial as a licensed lawyer. Miller kept interrupting the judge.

“Can I get out a statement here without you interrupting me?” Ryan asked.

The judge warned Miller that if he acted up during court proceedings he would be removed from the courtroom and his attorneys would be reappointed.

Miller said he would behave. When the judge asked Miller if he felt competent to represent himself, Miller said he was.

“My IQ is probably higher than yours,” he told the judge.

After questioning Miller, the judge said he found Miller’s decision was made knowingly and intelligently and he would allow it.

He asked Miller’s former attorneys if they would agree to act as “standby counsel” to assist Miller. Manna said they would do that.

But Miller will be responsible for filing written motions, making courtroom arguments and arranging to call his own experts and witnesses, the judge said.

Miller noted that one witness he plans to call is actor Mel Gibson.

Other issues taken up at Thursday’s hearing included plans to send out questionnaires to 1,000 potential jurors. The judge said he hoped to have the documents ready for the mail by the end of next week.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for June 10. Motions filed by Miller’s former attorneys seeking to suppress evidence and seeking a change of venue will be taken up then.

Miller is charged with capital murder in the shooting deaths of William Corporon and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Underwood, on April 13, 2014, outside the Jewish Community Center. Minutes later, he allegedly killed Terri LaManno, 53, outside the Village Shalom care center. All three were Christians.

He also is charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault and discharging a firearm into an occupied building.

To reach Tony Rizzo, call 816-234-4435 or send email to trizzo@kcstar.com.

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