BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Kenneth Gleason, a convicted murderer who took his own life while in prison, was the subject of a Tuesday morning hearing at the Louisiana Supreme Court. 

In April of 2021, Gleason was found guilty of first-degree murder after being linked to a series of shootings that left two Black men dead, Donald Smart and Bruce Cofield. 

Five months later, the 27-year-old Baton Rouge native was found hanging in his cell at Angola State Penitentiary. On September 22, the Department of Corrections confirmed that Gleason’s death was a suicide. 

Gleason had been facing a life sentence for Smart’s murder. 

But in November, a state district judge threw out the conviction based on the fact that Gleason had committed suicide. The judge’s decision was rooted in a common-law doctrine requiring courts to follow this procedure when defendants pass away while their appeals are pending. 

The Supreme Court will eventually decide to either overturn the doctrine, grant a suicide exception, or to completely throw the conviction out.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the defense mentioned that situations similar to this have occurred over 40 times and that a case such as this would do well to be examined by the state legislature.

The defense maintained that even though Gleason is dead, he still has a constitutional right to his appeal.

During the session, prosecutors also claimed that Gleason’s death was not officially confirmed as a suicide by the coroner’s office.

Gleason pleaded not guilty to the murders of Cofield and Smart in 2017 and though he wasn’t charged with a hate crime, there was initially a suspicion that the shootings were racially motivated

Officers who searched Gleason’s home, however, did confirm that they found a handwritten copy of an Adolf Hitler speech, according to the Associated Press.  

The Tuesday, May 10, Louisiana Supreme Court hearing began at 9:30 a.m. and justices will come to final decision at a later date.