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White Louisianan pleads not guilty in death of 2 black men

BATON ROUGE, La. – A white Louisiana man accused of shooting of two black men to death, and of baking in the house of a black family in three separate incidents in September has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.

The Lawyer reports that Kenneth James Gleason, 23, entered the plea Wednesday during an arrest for a state district court judge Beau Higginbotham in Baton Rouge.

A grand jury on Nov. 30 sued Gleason on one count each of second-degree murder in the first degree murder and two counts of attempted second-degree murder in the incidents that police have described as a possible racist motives.

Gleason is accused of the killing of Donald Smart, 49, Sept. 14 and Bruce Cofield, 59, Sept. 12.

Law enforcement officials have said they believe the two murders were random, as they are not able to make connections between Gleason and Smart or Cofield. Both men were on the side of the road in the night when they were shot. Officials have said Gleason approached them both the same way — shoot them first in his car, then abandoned the vehicle, and further to the fire and standing over them.

Also that mid-September week, Gleason is accused of targeting the only black family in the street where he lived, firing from a short distance on their front door. No one was injured, but two people were in the house at the time.

Although officials have said that the shootings were possible racist motives, East Baton Rouge district Attorney Hillar Moore III, said they have yet to uncover any concrete evidence to confirm that motive.

Smart family sat in the front two rows of the courtroom during the arraignment.

When Gleason announced his resources, members of the family released audible sounds of pain; his sister with tears in her eyes.

“I hope and pray that he (would) plead guilty, so the family wouldn’t have to keep coming to court,” said a Smart sister, Tiquincia Smart. “But we will be here every day court. … I truly believe that justice will be served.”

She said seeing Gleason in the courtroom was emotional, bringing back the memory of her brother to kill.

“I’ve seen (Gleason) in photos, but actually see him in person, just to see the man that took my brother’s life for no apparent reason, was scary in a sense, but at the same time, relieved that he knows that he is not on the street to hurt someone else,” she said.

The mother of Donald Smart three children, Lakisa Flowers, they said that they will be on every date of the court during the Gleason’s trial.

“He did not deserve to be killed and shot down”, Flowers said, who is now the education of their children, a 12 – and 13-year-old girl and a 15-year-old son, only. “Every day I just try to be strong for my children. … I try not to keep my tears in front of them.”

Lawyer Chris Alexander is the represent of Gleason and has refused a debt on behalf of his client.

“At this point, we’re going to questions and all of the evidence in the state’s possession and to review everything closely,” Alexander said after Wednesday’s hearing. “Our goal is to fully protect and Kenneth Gleason, and we plan to do it persistently.”

Moore said he has not decided whether he will seek the death penalty in the case.

A first date is not set.

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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