Published June 15, 2009
WASHINGTON – The white supremacist accused of killing a guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is in no condition to appear in court, a federal judge found Monday.
After a brief private conversation with attorneys from both sides, U.S. Magistrate Judge John Facciola said at a hearing that he had determined that it would not be possible for James von Brunn to have an initial appearance in the next week, either at the courthouse or in his hospital room.
James von Brunn, 88, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of 39-year-old Stephen T. Johns, a museum security guard who was black. Authorities say von Brunn shot the guard in the chest with a vintage rifle after Johns opened the door for him.
Authorities say von Brunn was shot in the face when other museum guards returned fire. FBI officials have said that von Brunn is likely to survive.
Little else was revealed about his condition at the hearing. Prosecutor Nicole Waid said von Brunn is in critical but stable condition. She asked to approach the bench for any further discussion, and Facciola called all the attorneys up for a confidential talk.
"Obviously, he's not able to get to court," Facciola said after their discussion. He scheduled another hearing for next Monday to get an update.
Von Brunn's court-appointed attorney A.J. Kramer would not comment further about his client's condition, citing health privacy laws, but said he was able to meet with him at the hospital on Sunday.
Von Brunn's son has come out publicly against him, saying the shooting was unforgivable and he wished his father had died instead.
Erik von Brunn told ABC's "Good Morning America" that he and his father didn't like each other. The interview followed ABC's release Sunday of comments by the son that his father had long burdened their family with his white supremacist views and should have died in the attack.
"I loved my father. But what he did was unforgivable," Erik von Brunn, 32, said.
ABC played a short video of Johns' mother Jacqueline Carter reacting to Erik's statements about his father.
"I hope that in time his son will be able to forgive his dad and find some peace within his heart also," Carter said.
In response, Erik von Brunn told ABC, "Forgiveness is very difficult right now."
"You know, the only bond we had was father and son. We didn't like each other very much."