Louisiana’s highest court on Friday let stand Brett Gerald’s 35-year prison sentence in a 2012 alcohol-related crash near Slaughter that killed seven Baton Rouge residents — six from the same extended family — on their way home from church services.
It was a welcome piece of news to John Gaines Jr., who lost his mother, sister and sister’s four children in the May 30, 2012, head-on collision on La. 67.
“Excellent! Excellent! That’s outstanding! That’s good news! I’m glad to hear that!” Gaines exclaimed, when told of the court’s decision to let Gerald’s lengthy prison sentence stand.
The state Supreme Court denied Gerald’s appeal without holding a hearing in the case.
“We look at this as justice for our family,” Gaines said.
Gerald’s attorney, Tommy Damico, said it was too early to comment on his next move but said, “We’re reviewing our options.”
State District Judge William Carmichael originally sentenced Gerald to serve seven consecutive 10-year prison terms, specifying that five years of each 10-year sentence — a total of 35 years — would be served without the possibility of probation or parole.
But one week after Gerald’s March 2013 sentencing, the state Supreme Court ruled in a separate case that vehicular homicide is the type of violent crime for which Louisiana law requires a defendant to serve at least 85 percent of a sentence.
Carmichael then resentenced Gerald in May 2013 to five years on each of the seven counts, with the sentences to run consecutively. Gerald must serve 85 percent of 35 years, or about 29 years and nine months.
The judge has said the new sentence will result in roughly the same prison release date for Gerald as the one in the original sentence.
Damico contends Carmichael erred in imposing consecutive terms on each count when all counts and charges arose from a single act.
Gerald’s pickup collided with a car carrying seven people home from church services in Clinton.
Killed immediately were Brenda Gaines, 64; Denise Gaines, 33; Diamond Johnson, 12; Jyran Johnson, 6; and Angela Matthews Mosely, 36. Two other passengers, Willie Gaines Jr., 15, and Rogerick Johnson Jr., 13, died several days later.
All but Mosely were members of the same extended family.
A state trooper who investigated the crash testified that an analysis of a blood sample taken at Lane Regional Medical Center showed Gerald’s blood-alcohol content was 0.15 percent.
In Louisiana, a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent is considered presumptive evidence of drunken driving.
Gerald had three other DWI arrests before the fatal collision and one conviction.