Witness in Kenneth Gleason trial says Gleason is not the killer
BATON ROUGE - After months of delays, due to sanity hearings and then later, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the trial of accused Baton Rouge serial killer, Kenneth Gleason is now underway.
Gleason has been tied to three shootings in Baton Rouge, all involving victims who were Black men.
Two of the shootings proved to be deadly, and the men killed have been identified as 49-year-old Donald Smart and 59-year-old Bruce Cofield.
Though Gleason has not been charged with a hate crime, local authorities feel all three acts of violence he's been tied to were racially motivated. They're basing this theory on evidence of Adolf Hitler references in his possession and a drawing of a swastika discovered in Gleason's jail cell.
The April 2021 trial revolves around the shooting death of Donald Smart, an employee of Louie's Cafe in Baton Rouge. Smart was walking to work when he was gunned down and killed on September 14, 2017.
During the trial, jurors are also hearing about the second deadly shooting Gleason has been tied to, the murder of Bruce Cofield.
A business owner who was in the area at the time of the September 12, 2017 shooting told jurors that he doesn't think Gleason killed Cofield.
This witness, Jacques Landry, says the shooter he saw on the night of the attack was larger than Gleason.
The business owner presented footage pulled from video surveillance at his shop that captured the night Cofield was killed.
The video shows Landry assisting a client and then walking to the front of the business to look out of the window as he hears gunshots before returning to his client.
Shortly thereafter, the video shows a red car leaving the scene of the shooting, and Landry walking back to the front window for one final look.
Landry pointed Gleason out in court and insisted that Gleason was not the shooter, adding that he believes the entire case is a conspiracy.
In response to Landry's claims, attorneys for the state are expected to present the court with video surveillance footage of Gleason removing his license plate and taping over recognizable parts of his car on the day of Cofield's murder.
The court will also be presented with evidence that during this time, Gleason was searching for information about the shootings from local news sites in an attempt to locate any articles written about the crimes.
Attorneys are expected to show that Gleason was likely checking to see what the officials knew and didn't know about the crimes they eventually linked him to.
Gleason has also been tied to a third shooting on Sandy Ridge Drive, the home of the only Black family on Gleason's street, that occurred on September 11, 2017.
During this incident, no one was hit by the gunfire.
Gleason was connected to this attempted murder by police when a witness who works at a nearby Jiffy Lube told them it was shortly after the shooting when Gleason drove to the Jiffy Lube in a red Ford Focus and briefly exited the car holding a gun. After this, the witness said Gleason returned to his vehicle and drove away.
During the April 2021 trial, Gleason's body language has been withdrawn, his eyes cast downward, and only looking up when images of bodies are shown and when a crime scene technician took the stand to explain the process of tracing gun shells for fingerprints. At this point, Gleason even picked up a writing utensil and began taking notes.
The jury is made up of 12 individuals, with one member of the jury identifying as Black.
The trial is expected to continue for no more than two weeks.
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