A Gainesville man will begin his trial today in Superior Court regarding the 2014 death of a man on West Avenue.
The case of Leshan Tanner, 42, is set to start today after Monday’s jury selection in Superior Court Judge Andrew Fuller’s courtroom. He is charged with felony murder, robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and attempt to purchase marijuana related to the death of Cedric Antonio Huff, 41, of Gainesville.
Tanner’s former co-defendant Rodnie Stokes, 27, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, receiving a 40-year sentence. The current sentencing would have Stokes in confinement for the first 20 years, followed by probation.
Gainesville Police Investigator Gordon Hendry joined Assistant District Attorneys Juliet Aldridge and Jennifer Bagwell at the prosecutor’s table.
Police believe Huff’s death was related to a drug deal, as Tanner and Stokes are charged with attempting to purchase a half pound of marijuana June 5, 2014, on West Avenue.
More than 3 pounds of marijuana was found in Huff’s apartment.
Before the 60-member jury panel arrived in the courtroom, the attorneys argued on the issue of the deceased telling his mother of Tanner’s alleged involvement.
According to previous court filings, Huff allegedly told his mother while at the hospital that Tanner was involved. Huff died June 21, 2014.
Tanner’s counsel Larry Duttweiler previously raised the issue to restrict it in October following Tanner’s indictment.
“Even if relevant to establish Defendant’s presence at the scene of another’s eventual crime (as already admitted to law enforcement authorities), the prejudice that accompanies the words of an alleged victim who passed away shortly thereafter is extraordinarily sympathetic and, therefore, emotionally prejudicial,” Duttweiler wrote in his motion.
Fuller previously ruled in December that “it was not made while the declarant was aware of his impending death,” according to his order.
When the jury came in, Duttweiler, Aldridge and Bagwell questioned the prospective jurors about their relationships with law enforcement and if they were ever victims of a violent crime.
The case is set to begin with opening statements around 9 a.m. today.