White supremacist gets death penalty for Jewish shootings in Kansas
Despite high profile cases, such as Frazier Glenn Miller Jr.'s 2014 shooting of Jewish sites in Kansas, white supremacist groups have dwindling influence in the US.
(Joe Ledford/The Kansas City Star via AP, Pool)
Avowed white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. was sentenced to death Tuesday for the fatal shootings of three people at Jewish sites in Kansas.
After several members of the victims’ families read statements often choked with emotion, Johnson County District Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan followed a jury’s recommendation in August and sentenced Mr. Miller to die by lethal injection.
"Your attempt to bring hate to this community, to bring terror to this community, has failed," Judge Ryan said sternly before reading the sentence, the Associated Press reports. "You have failed, Mr. Miller."
After the judge read the sentence, he shouted “Heil Hitler,” and was removed from the courtroom.
Miller, who represented himself during the trial on charges of capital murder, three counts of attempted murder and assault and weapons charges stemming from the April 2014 shootings in suburban Kansas City, testified that he wanted to kill Jewish people before he dies.
He said he suffers from chronic emphysema and a doctor testified during the trial that he has five or six years to live.
All three of the shooting victims were Christians.
Miller killed William Corporon, 69, Corporon’s grandson Reat Griffin Underwood, who was 14, at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas. Afterwards, he shot Terri LaManno, 53, at the nearby Village Shalom retirement center.
Experts have often pointed to the changing character of white supremacist movements in recent years, saying a lack of organization and rapidly dwindling membership has fundamentally reduced the power of groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
“The Klan today is weak, poorly led, divided internally, and without any political support whatsoever, so it is radically different from the Klan of history," Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told The Christian Science Monitor in July.
Ninety years ago, more than 5 million Americans were chapter members of the KKK, propelling films like D.W. Griffith’s 1915 epic “Birth of Nation” and later “Gone With the Wind,” to become some of the country’s first blockbusters despite their often virulently-racist depictions of the American South.
“Birth of a Nation” – with its celebration of the Klan as heroes of the South – was screened at the White House upon its release, with President Woodrow Wilson saying the film’s epic scope “is like writing history with lightning.”
“My only regret is that it is all so terribly true,” he reportedly added. But the positive reception for Griffith’s film in an era not far removed from the Civil War also sparked a backlash, with civil rights groups across the country attempting to block its distribution, mostly unsuccessfully.
More recently, when a KKK chapter in South Carolina planned a rally in July to protest the removal of the Confederate flag from the state capitol in Columbia following the shooting of nine black people in a church in Charleston, Gov. Nikki Haley described the group as “lonely.”
During Miller’s sentencing in Kansas on Tuesday, victims’ families spoke about their losses, sometimes looking directly at Miller and calling him a coward.
"It's hard without my best friend of 51 years," said Melinda Corporon, William Corporon’s husband, who talked about his work as an emergency room physician, the AP reports.
"The evil that entered our lives that Sunday in April can't be denied,” she added. “I'm here today to make sure this voice of evil is silenced permanently."
Miller, a Vietnam War veteran who later founded the Carolina Knights chapter of the KKK in his native North Carolina and later the White Patriot Party, mostly sat quietly during the victim statements. But afterwards, he became defiant and began making anti-Semitic comments, the AP reports.
Kansas currently has nine other inmates on death row, having waited nearly 20 years to reinstate capital punishment after the Supreme Court reintroduced in 1976. The state’s current laws are very narrow and allows for death only in a small number of circumstances.
But in emotional testimony, the victims’ families spoke particularly about the losses of family members at the hands of Miller, who has said previously that he “thrive[s] on hate” and would attack more people if he was released from prison.