Jury seated in trial of Baton Rouge man accused in racially motivated killings of Black men

Jury seated for Kenneth Gleason trial

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A jury was seated Wednesday, April 14, in the trial of Kenneth Gleason, of Baton Rouge, who is accused of fatally shooting two Black men in racially motivated killings.

Opening statements are scheduled to begin Thursday.

Jury selection began Monday, April 12. Gleason is accused of killing two black men back in September of 2017 and firing into the home of a black family.

Jury selection underway in Kenneth Gleason trial

Police said in 2017 they believed the shootings were likely racially motivated.

The trial was originally scheduled to begin one year ago, in April 2020, but was then changed to a sanity hearing.

Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

Judge Beau Higginbotham, who is presiding over the trial, deemed Gleason competent to stand trial on Aug. 6, 2020, after two doctors examined Gleason.

Gleason is facing two counts of first-degree murder. He is accused of killing Bruce Cofield, 59, on Florida Boulevard on Sept. 12, 2017, and Donald Smart, 49, who was found dead near Louie’s Cafe on Alaska Street on Sept. 14, 2017.

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Gleason pleaded not guilty to the killings back in December of 2017. He is also charged with two counts of attempted second-degree murder for firing into the home of a Black family on Sandy Ridge Drive on Sept. 11, 2017.

District Attorney Hillar Moore said he will not seek the death penalty in this case. Family members of one of the victims did not want the death penalty pursued in the case. They cited the personal toll on them and religious beliefs as the reasons.

If convicted for the crimes he is charged with, Gleason faces life in prison. The jury’s verdict must be unanimous.

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