Editorials

Brace yourselves for this wretched legal drama as a neo-Nazi goes to trial

Family and friends of victims Terri LaManno, Reat Underwood and William Corporon gathered on the first anniversary of the fatal shootings for a memorial Mass and balloon release in their honor.
Family and friends of victims Terri LaManno, Reat Underwood and William Corporon gathered on the first anniversary of the fatal shootings for a memorial Mass and balloon release in their honor. tljungblad@kcstar.com

The circus continues on Monday in Olathe. But this is no entertainment and no laughing matter. Jury selection is slated to begin in the capital murder trial of F. Glenn Miller Jr. in Johnson County District Court.

Miller is the accused and confessed killer of three good-hearted and innocent people. He is also one of those fools bound and determined to represent himself in court. One feels sympathy in advance for the judge, jurors and onlookers who will be forced to witness an almost inevitable debacle. The families of his victims, in particular, deserve better.

To follow Miller’s outbursts and blatherings in court proceedings up to now is to watch the mind of a delusional and deranged soul in action. His principal argument for his own defense, rejected by Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan, has been his belief in the “compelling necessity” to exterminate Jews before they conquer the “white race.”

Miller, also known and charged as Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., is 74 and in ill health. Time was running out for him, so the convicted felon and onetime snitch got some guns and went into action.

Of course, even as he took three lives he blundered badly. For one thing, the astoundingly dense and single-minded Miller failed to ascertain that his victims on April 13, 2014, were Jewish, which they were not. As if religious identity in this case really matters.

For those tempted to chalk up the tragedy of that Sunday afternoon in Overland Park as the act of a “lone wolf,” a raving domestic terrorist operating undetectably and off the grid, it’s important to remember that Miller is not really one of a kind. His kind of hate is shared by hundreds if not thousands of organized anti-Semites and white nationalists in the United States.

The Star has reported on some of those groups and how some support Miller but others regret the attention by association that his shotgun attack has wrought. Miller has been on the radar of law enforcement and those who keep track of hate groups for at least three decades, though regrettably he’d slithered into the background even as he flung web postings and verbal poison from his southwest Missouri home.

Some legal minds convincingly suggest that Miller should have been found incompetent to stand trial. Yet Kansas has a relatively low threshold for competency. Now, with capital punishment on the table in the second phase of the trial, Miller will have the right to harangue and harass witnesses and test the patience of the system. If convicted — and no matter the sentence — Miller will surely die in prison anyway, given the long road to the ultimate punishment in Kansas.

“Every jury trial in the land,” a jurist and author of the popular novel “Anatomy of a Murder” once wrote, “is a small daily miracle of democracy in action.”

The trial we are about to witness in Johnson County will sorely challenge that homily.

Area residents would do well in the coming weeks to keep comforting thoughts for the families of Terri LaManno, William Corporon and young Reat Underwood. Surely they will need the uplift in light of the wretched performance Miller will attempt while exercising his right to a fair trial.

More important, the families’ record of grace and community building in the horror’s aftermath should be remembered and treasured.

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