La. Supreme Court rules Gleason murder conviction stands despite his suicide

Kenneth Gleason
Kenneth Gleason
Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 3:04 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WAFB) - The Louisiana Supreme Court has reinstated Kenneth Gleason’s first-degree murder conviction despite Gleason’s suicide before the case could go through the appeal process.

The high court said the appeal has been dismissed and the conviction is upheld.

Gleason, 27, of Baton Rouge, was convicted in 2021 and sentenced to life in prison for the racially motivated killings of two Black men, Donald Smart, 49, and Bruce Coefield, 59, in 2017.

Gleason was found dead from an apparent hanging at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Two sources familiar with the incident said Gleason was found with a bed sheet around his neck on Wednesday, Sept. 22. 2021. The Louisiana Department of Corrections (DOC) later released a statement confirming Gleason committed suicide in his prison cell.

Kenneth Gleason found dead

A Louisiana district judge dismissed the murder conviction under a common law procedural rule that requires courts to throw out convictions when the person dies while appeals are pending. The high court wrote, “Finding the doctrine to be obsolete and inconsistent with our positive law, we abandon it.”

“Accordingly, we abandon the doctrine and hold that when a defendant dies during the pendency of an appeal, the appeal shall be dismissed and the trial court shall enter a notation in the record that the conviction removed the defendant’s presumption of innocence but was neither affirmed nor reversed on appeal due to the defendant’s death,” the ruling stated.

CLICK HERE to read the full ruling.


An East Baton Rouge Parish judge has sentenced Kenneth Gleason to life in prison for the September 2017 murders of Donald Smart and Bruce Coefield.

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