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OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A white supremacist accused of killing three people outside two Kansas Jewish sites fired his attorneys on Thursday, telling the judge that he thought representing himself was the only way he'd be allowed to speak at the capital murder trial.
A hearing for Frazier Glenn Miller, 74, of Aurora, Missouri, came to an abrupt halt after a testy exchange between him and Johnson County District Judge Kelly Ryan that ended with Miller demanding the right to fire his lawyers.
The outburst followed testimony by District Attorney Steve Howe that Miller's attorneys had twice offered guilty pleas in return for taking the death penalty off the table. Howe said he rejected both of those offers.
Defense attorney Mark Manna told the judge Miller wanted to respond to Howe, but Ryan asked what purpose that would serve. Miller, sitting in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank at his side, became irritated and declared loudly that he was firing his attorneys.
Ryan called a recess after Howe asserted that if Miller wanted to get rid of his attorneys, he had the legal right to do so.
Miller is accused of fatally shooting William Lewis Corporon, 69, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kansas, on April 13, 2014. Minutes later, Miller killed Terri LaMano, 53, at a nearby Jewish retirement home where she was visiting her mother, prosecutors say.
Miller has told media outlets that he planned to kill Jews and didn't know none of the victims was Jewish. He called the slayings justified, though he said he regrets killing the 14-year-old.
He told The Associated Press last month that he plans to plead guilty to capital murder but he wants to use his sentencing hearing to voice his anti-Semitic beliefs without interruption. He said he wants to avoid a lengthy trial because he suffers from chronic emphysema and believes he has only a few more months to live.
After a recess of nearly an hour Thursday, Miller confirmed his decision to represent himself.
"That's the only damn way you're going to let me talk," he said.
Ryan urged Miller to reconsider because of all of the procedural work that urgently needs to be done before the Aug. 17 trial date, which Miller's attorneys have argued is way too soon to allow them to mount a legitimate defense. Miller responded that he would be willing to plead guilty in exchange for the chance to explain his views in open court before he dies.
"Six months from now I might climb up on the gurney and stick the needle in, myself," he said.
Ryan ruled that the attorneys would remain involved in the case on a stand-by basis and could be restored as Miller's counsel if he gets kicked out of the courtroom during his trial or decides he wants them back.
Also known as Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., Miller is a Vietnam War veteran who founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in his native North Carolina and later the White Patriot Party.
He was the target of a nationwide manhunt in 1987, when federal agents tracked him and three other men to a rural Missouri home stocked with hand grenades and automatic weapons. He was indicted on weapons charges and accused of plotting robberies and the assassination of the Southern Poverty Law Center's founder. He served three years in federal prison.
Miller also ran for the U.S. House in 2006 and the U.S. Senate in 2010 in Missouri, each time espousing a white-power platform.
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