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Potential Jurors In Accused JCC Shooter Trial Asked Their Views On The Death Penalty

Just one potential juror was dismissed Tuesday morning from serving in the trial of the accused Jewish Community Center shooter, Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., because of opposition to the death penalty.

Cross faces a single count of capital murder for the deaths last spring of William Corporon, Reat Underwood and Terri LaManno. The trial, expected to start next week, will likely stretch into September.

Roughly half of the 200 jurors summoned to the Johnson County Courthouse Monday, the first day of jury selection, were sent home after providing evidence that serving for the duration of a long trial would impose an undue burden.

Those that remain in the jury pool were told to report back in groups of 25. The first panel spent Tuesday morning answering questions about their impartiality and willingness to serve. One was dismissed because she knew the Chief Deputy District Attorney, Christopher McMullin. Another told Judge Thomas Kelly Ryan media reports had influenced her opinions on the case and she did not feel she could set those opinions aside.

Cross, who is representing himself, questioned one potential juror who told the judge he would not be able to remain fair and balanced. Cross wanted to know what the juror had heard about the case.

“You believed the victims were Jewish,” the juror said before he was dismissed.

Several others who had indicated on their juror questionnaires that they had already formed an opinion on the case were asked if they could set those opinions aside. Those who told McMullin they couldn’t were also dismissed.

McMullin then asked each of the remaining 16 jurors their feelings on the death penalty. Many had indicated some level of opposition to it on their juror questionnaires, but nearly all of them told McMullin they could set those feelings aside.

Only one woman felt her convictions were strong enough she shouldn’t serve. Kansas law requires jurors serving on capital cases be willing to impose the death penalty if the defendant is convicted.

Usually defendants and their legal teams are looking for jurors they believe won’t ultimately impose the death penalty. But Cross, an avowed anti-Semite, has at earlier court appearances expressed his desire to be made a martyr for the white supremacy movement.

“You wouldn’t uphold the law because your morals prevented it?” Cross asked the potential juror.

She replied she did not believe in an eye for an eye.

Cross called her a bad American.

The juror was dismissed.

Then it was Cross’ turn to question the jurors. He told them he wouldn’t waste their time, but he needed to gauge their “political, religious and social beliefs.”

He asked them to hold up their fingers to rate how much they trusted the federal government on a scale of one to ten. Ryan told Cross the format of the question wouldn’t work for the purposes of maintaining court records.

Cross agreed to move on. He then asked potential jurors if they felt the mainstream media was controlled or free. Most told Cross they felt there was some degree of control. The judge had to tell Cross it wasn’t appropriate to tell a juror her answer “was a good one.”

“Do you believe the white race has a right to survive?” Cross asked.

Many potential jurors replied they didn’t understand the question and asked Cross to clarify. Two told Cross they believe all people have a right to survive, which Cross countered wasn’t what he asked.

Finally, Cross asked the potential jurors whether they thought the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were fought for America’s benefit or Israel. Everyone replied “America’s benefit,” or “to benefit America and its allies.”

All 15 jurors were told to report back later in the week. There are four more panels scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Twelve jurors and five alternates will be selected for a trial, likely to begin Monday.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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