Attorneys for an accused Baton Rouge cop-killer are objecting to the state's request to try him separately in the April 26, 2020, shooting deaths of his girlfriend's stepfather and police Lt. Glenn Dale Hutto Jr.

East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutors had filed a motion in July stating that the woman and her mother won't cooperate with the state, so they want to try Ronnie Kato first in the slaying of Hutto.

But Kato's lawyers say prosecutors are wrongly trying to relieve themselves of their burden of proof and shift that burden to Kato.

His attorneys contend the killing of Curtis Richardson, his girlfriend's stepfather, is an integral part of the chain of events which led to Hutto's killing several hours later.

Kato, 37, of Baton Rouge, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the killings of Richardson, 58, and Hutto, 45, and faces a possible death sentence if convicted of first-degree murder.

Authorities say Kato killed Richardson during a domestic dispute on North Pamela Drive. He’s believed to have fatally shot Hutto several hours later while police were searching for Kato at a home on Conrad Drive.

Prosecutor Dana Cummings wrote in July that Richardson's wife, who is the mother of Kato's girlfriend, also was present at the Pamela Drive scene. She said both women are "necessary witnesses" to the prosecution in the Richardson slaying.

Cummings, however, said both women "have exhibited hostility to members of the District Attorney's Office and have indicated that they will not cooperate with the prosecution in the cases." She said the state would be prejudiced at Kato's trial for the killing of Hutto if forced to prosecute the two murder counts together.

Kato's lawyers with the Capital Defense Project of Southeast Louisiana essentially wrote on Aug. 27 that the state's predicament is not the defense's problem.

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"In order for the entire circumstances of April 26th to be fully and accurately presented to the jury, the relevant witnesses for the Richardson count need to be called along with the ones for Officer Hutto," attorneys Sean Collins and Kerry Cuccia wrote.

"If the Court were to grant this severance, the State's burden would shift to the defense in that Mr. Kato would be compelled to call witnesses in order to fully explain the events of April 26th. This burden-shifting is incongruent with the fundamental understanding of the presumption of innocence and burden of proof," they added.

The state's contention that Kato's girlfriend and her mother are hostile and uncooperative may mean that they will refuse to comply with any state subpoenas, or that they do not wish Kato to be executed, or that they will not provide provide information about Kato "which fits into the State's narrative about him," Collins and Cuccia wrote.

"Failure of an essential witness to comply with a subpoena may constitute prejudice; not telling the State what it wants to hear does not," they stated.

The lawyers have filed a motion seeking to view the evidence supporting the state's allegations of uncooperative witnesses.

Kato also allegedly shot Cpl. Derrick Maglone in the police encounter. Maglone was critically injured but released from the hospital May 7, 2020.

A detective previously testified that Kato ambushed the officers with an assault-style rifle as they searched for him in the backyard of a Conrad Drive home. The same rifle was used to kill Hutto and Richardson, the detective said.

Hutto, a 21-year veteran of the police force and a sergeant at the time of his death, received the rank of lieutenant posthumously.


Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.