Suspected Jewish Community Center Gunman Makes First Court Appearance

Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, faces capital murder charge for multiple shooting deaths in Kansas.
7:13 | 04/15/14

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Transcript for Suspected Jewish Community Center Gunman Makes First Court Appearance
This is a special group. I hate crime in the heartland the man accused of -- three people in cold blood. Wheeled into court today making his first court appearance. Frazier -- cross the man known for his anti Semitic views and involvement with the kkk good afternoon everyone I'm Michelle Franzen here in New York. The suspect you just saw there in court. And were finding out more about his past ABC's Karen Travers reports from Washington. Frazier -- cross made his first appearance in court today. Police say the 73 year old went public -- -- Jewish community. -- on Sunday the eve of passover. Intent on killing Jews. He was charged today with capital murder for the shooting deaths of fourteen year old -- under what he's grandfathers 69 year old William Lewis corporate. And 53 year old Terry Romano. None were Jewish organizations that -- extremist hate groups say cross is a former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. And of the -- anti semite this was a big the local prosecutor said that will not be part of the State's filing. We don't have a hate crime charges in Kansas. You know he's charged with capital murder which is the most serious crime that you can be charged with in the state Kansas but federal prosecutors say that's an option. What we have to date. Makes me comfortable with recommending that the matter move wardens and federal hate. The Overland Park, Kansas community is mourning the victims. Carrie Underwood -- sitting. -- grandfather was bringing him to audition at a competition where he hoped to perform you'll miss me when I'm gone nowhere and thinks they're gonna have funerals planned -- no one believes this'll happen to you. To your family. Police say cross shot Amano outside the Jewish assisted living facility where she visited her mother every Sunday. Prosecutors say they haven't decided yet if they'll seek the death penalty but it is an option. They said they need more time to look at all the evidence because this is not a decision they'll take lightly. Karen Travers ABC news Washington. And I want to bring an ABC news correspondent legal analyst and attorney Brian Smith Ryan thanks for joining us. Cross had an odd appearance in court today he was draped in what was described by sheriff's department spokesperson as a suicide prevention smock. Do we know why and -- a standard. Well not necessarily standard a lot of times it'll depend on if the person coming in has mental issues. And that's -- is on him so that it can't be be constructed so that it can't be disassembled. And used in some form -- fashion. But tons of prisoners come in or -- up people come in and they have some sort of argument or so some sort of erratic behavior they'll take away certain items of clothing but -- a case like this looks like. There might be some instability so they do need to have that smock on. Now -- a short court appearance today cross asked for a court appointed attorney. Standard procedure what else happened and what happens next in this case. Well the other thing is you talk about -- the establishment of bail so bail was set at a very very high level I believe in the neighborhood of the millions of dollars so in the case like that. Not surprising at all since the conditions of bail -- -- only be released if for example he wasn't a detriment to the community. Or possibly wasn't a flight risk. So it looks like he'll be spending a lot of time in prison what happens next is. The determination on charges especially things like the death penalty we'll have to be part of the consideration. Strict bed downforce of course we heard from the state they said that they are treating this as a capital. Crime here but federal charges and -- could also apply in terms of a hate crime. That's right so you've got two different paths to a possible death penalty situation on the state level and on the federal level. On the federal level it's because of the hate crime if that is in fact charges that are brought against him so. They have to make that determination on the state level it's the same sort of thing but it's based on the murder charges so he's facing three murder charges. And the death penalty is when you have murder plus what they call aggravating circumstances the crime was heinous toasts and cool. Other people might have been killed because of his action. So I would say on both levels is a pretty good chance that he may be facing the death and and since these are on two different -- what case might take precedent. A lot of times the state case will go first we won't know that for sure especially in terms of when they decide to bring death penalty charges if they in fact -- in either of those jurisdictions. And -- the three victims who were shot ended up not being Jewish. Which authorities are saying that was his motive. Could all of this be also caused some sort of an effect in what sort of impact could this have on the case moving forward. It's the existing think is typically doesn't the fact that they are not Jewish. Doesn't mean that it could be considered a hate crime because. Under a lot of hate crime laws what matters is what's in the state of mind of the person committing the act so -- he had the belief. That he was doing something out of -- out of bias. Then in fact he can be convicted under the hate crime statutes so the fact that they were -- probably will not have an effect in this case. And certainly as a state moves forward with their charges they'll be proving the murder charges that the federal government decides to move forward to pay charges -- they have. A higher threshold to prove these sort of police. In some instances yes there's a couple of different standards they must meet -- -- long and -- of it is. It got to prove that his actions were motivated by that bias or by that eight. And so they'll have to compile a lot of evidence a lot of times you look at a case like this. And you say well it seems very simple he's the man who did the shooting and people are dead therefore can -- not move forward but. A -- -- a long investigations they have to gather information evidence. Because they want to make sure they have an airtight case against the man they believe committed these crimes. It's and they certainly have not decided yet whether -- seeking the death penalty how long what prosecutors had to decide that they have a little bit of time and it depends it goes from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. But at the -- there is not as if they have to decide today or tomorrow. So they will take their time and make sure they have all their ducks in a row before they decide to charge the death penalty and how much might crosses history has background. His affiliation with so called hate groups and play and -- In the case like this that would play a major role at trial because. The idea is he had -- bias in his mind how do we prove that. We look at his past actions in addition to his present actions and we look at some of the things he's been saying in some of the videos that are out there. That apparently he posted so a lot of that is going to come into play. And his pass will put a very prominent role -- whatever trial happens here. ABC news correspondent legal analyst Brian Smith thanks as always for joining us -- -- This is -- an ABC news digital special report keep up with this story in real time by downloading the ABC news that and starring. This story for exclusive updates on ago. I'm Michelle Franzen in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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