Judge Refuses To Recuse Himself From Frazier Glenn Cross Trial

Jul 17, 2015

Frazier Glenn Cross Jr.
Credit Courtesy photo / Johnson County, Kansas, Sheriff's Office

Updated, 4:30 p.m., Friday:

A Johnson County judge won't let the accused Jewish Community Center shooter use his anti-Semitic world view to mount a legal defense at trial next month.

During a pre-trial hearing on Friday, Frazier Glenn Cross Jr. wanted to argue he had a "compelling necessity" to kill three people on April 13, 2014, because the white race is declining.

Assistant District Attorney Christopher McMullin's response to Cross' hourlong anti-Semitic rant was brief.

McMullin told Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan that while Cross was welcome to present his evidence to the jury as a mitigating factor in the sentencing phase, "what he's not allowed to do is argue it was necessary to kill Reat Underwood, William Corporon and Terri LaManno in cold blood to prevent some greater evil."

Kansas judges have rejected a so-called "choice of evils" defense before, such as in the case of Scott Roeder, convicted of murdering abortion provider Dr. George Tiller.

"Even in the case of an abortion doctor who might be performing abortions the next day, there was no imminent harm," Ryan said in his rejection of Cross' defense.

"You're going to say no because you're terrified of Jews," Cross taunted.

"Sir, stop," Ryan commanded from the bench. "You're done talking."

Ryan also ruled on a slew of other motions Friday, including:

• Cross asked that he be allowed to address the jury last during the sentencing phase if a guilty verdict is returned. McMullin argued that because it's up to the state to prove the aggravating circumstances — factors that may result in a harsher sentence — outweighed the mitigating circumstances Cross might present in his defense. Ryan agreed with the assistant district attorney.

• The prosecution will be able to present crime scene and autopsy photos at trial. Cross' defense team filed the motion before they were demoted, arguing such images could sway the jury. District Attorney Stephen Howe countered the photos are the most sanitized images available given the extent of the victims' injuries. The judge again sided with the prosecutors.

•  Ryan denied a request of Cross' for permission to remain in the courtroom during recesses as the attorneys often do. Ryan said Cross is in custody of the Johnson County sheriff and not entitled to do so. "You want to get media attention, and that's not going to happen at the trial," Ryan told Cross, who then accused the judge of gagging him. "I'm not gagging you," the judge replied.

Updated, 10:29 a.m, Friday:

Two hundred Johnson County residents will be called Aug. 17 for jury selection in the trial of accused Jewish Community Center shooter Frazier Glenn Cross.

More than 800 surveys have been returned, Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan said Friday at a pre-trial hearing.

Other potential jurors could be called if the initial pool of 200 doesn't yield a 12-man jury with at least 5 alternates.

Because Cross is representing himself, Ryan has implemented strict controls on access to juror questionnaires. They'll only be available during courthouse hours at the Johnson County Courthouse in Olathe, Kansas. Neither Cross nor the prosecution will be able to make copies, but they can take notes.

"What if we want to work off hours?" District Attorney Stephen Howe asked, pointing out he and Christopher McMullin, the assistant district attorney, have other duties and often don't get to review juror questionnaires until after the close of business.

Ryan told Howe to rearrange his schedule.

Jury selection is expected to be a tedious process because it's a capital case and there's been so much media coverage of the shooting. There's also concern that Cross, known for his anti-Semitic outbursts, might say things to potential jurors that could disqualify anyone in the courtroom at the time from serving. 

Updated, 10:15 a.m. Friday:

Johnson County District court Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan won’t recuse himself from the trial of the accused Jewish Community Center shooter.

Frazier Glenn Cross, Jr. is accused of killing three people last spring outside the White Theater at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom, a nearby retirement center.

Cross, an avowed anti-Semite, who also uses the last name Miller, wants Ryan off the case because the judge has refused to state if he’s a Freemason.

“That’s a secret organization,” Cross said in court Friday. “As a defendant, I have a right to know if you’re  member of a secret, subversive organization.

Ryan again refused to answer. He also held firm on an earlier decision not to grant Cross internet access at the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, where he’s being held.

Ryan concluded “there’s not any scintilla” of obstruction of justice in how he’s handled Cross’ case so far.

Cross also wants Ryan to rule on what Cross has dubbed a “compelling necessity” defense.

Cross filed motions stating his anti-Semitic worldview required his action on April 13, 2014. But Ryan told Cross that matter would have to wait until later in the day.