Jurors will return Monday for the second week of a trial for a Baton Rouge man accused of targeting and gunning down two Black men in a streak of violence in 2017 that began when Kenneth Gleason allegedly fired into a Black family’s home.

Kenneth Gleason is accused of targeting Black people in what prosecutors described last week as “a four-day streak of terror” that began when he allegedly fired into a family’s home near his parents' house before gunning down a homeless man at a Florida Street bus stop and then another man who was walking to work.

Gleason, 27, is White, and all of the victims are Black, but he is not charged with a hate crime.

Despite prosecutors being able to present evidence linking Gleason to the three shootings, he is only on trial for first-degree murder for the killing of Donald Smart, a 49-year-old Louie’s restaurant employee who was gunned down as he walking to work just north of LSU’s campus.

Officials have yet to present evidence gleaned from a search of Gleason’s home and phone that they say contain "repeated references" to Adolf Hitler and ethnic cleansing. While that information will be allowed at the trial, the judge has barred the government from telling jurors about a swastika drawing found in Gleason's jail cell because the information wasn't promptly disclosed to defense lawyers.

Testimony and opening statements began Thursday following a full three days of jury selection, which at times saw prosecutors accuse Gleason’s defense team of removing potential jurors who were Black.

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

Twice daily we'll send you the day's biggest headlines. Sign up today.

Only one of the 12-member panel is Black.

Prosecutors have said they plan to rely heavily on ballistic and DNA evidence linking the shootings together since no gun was found on Gleason.

They also say cellphone records show he had searched for information about the shootings and showed he was in the area at the time of the final shooting he’s accused of. Two young people who were at a nearby park are set to testify this week; they previously told authorities they saw a White man shoot Smart from a car before walking over to him and firing several more shots.

Defense lawyers have said the government’s case is circumstantial and during a Saturday session raised questions about differing witness accounts in the fatal shooting of 59-year-old Bruce Cofield, who was shot at least 15 times at a bus stop at the intersection of Florida Street and North Acadian Thruway.

Gleason faces life behind bars if convicted by a unanimous jury after prosecutors dropped the death penalty as an option after speaking to Smart's family.

The trial is expected to last through the week. 


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