If not reversed, a decision by state corrections officials will cause a Baton Rouge man convicted in a fatal alcohol-related crash that killed a bicyclist to serve much more prison time than he should, his attorney alleges in a new court filing.
Joseph Branch had a blood-alcohol level of 0.307 percent when he crashed into two cyclists on Perkins Road near Quail Run Drive on Jan. 21, 2012, killing Nathan Crowson and severely injuring Danny Morris.
A bicyclist seriously injured in an alcohol-related January 2012 crash on Perkins Road that …
The following year, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled in an unrelated case that vehicular homicide is a crime of violence requiring those convicted of the crime to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. The high court did not say if its decision applied to crimes that occurred before its decision.
Branch was found guilty by a jury in 2014 of vehicular homicide and first-degree vehicular negligent injuring, and was sentenced by state District Judge Mike Erwin in 2015 to 7 1/2 years in prison.
A grueling three-year ordeal for Nathan Crowson’s family, and for Danny Morris and his famil…
At the request of prosecutors and over the objection of Branch's attorneys, Erwin later clarified the sentence to say it was imposed for a crime of violence.
Seven months after Joseph Branch was sentenced to 7 ½ years in prison for killing a bicyclis…
The state Department of Corrections then determined that, because he had been convicted of a crime of violence, Branch would not be eligible for the 40 percent good-time rate for nonviolent offenses and instead would have to serve 85 percent of his term.
Yigal Bander, who represents Branch in his lawsuit against DOC, argues in court documents filed last week that the determination of good time credit is entrusted exclusively to the department and a sentencing judge has no role in it.
"Mr. Branch is not trying to undo what the trial court did, and is not asking this court to second-guess the trial court. Mr. Branch is asking this court to undo DOC's erroneous and unconstitutional determination of his good time," Bander wrote in a post-hearing memorandum filed in the 19th Judicial District Court.
Nicole Robinson, a 19th JDC commissioner, held a hearing Nov. 30 but did not issue a ruling in the cases of Branch and Brett Gerald, a Greensburg man serving a 35-year sentence in a 2012 alcohol-related crash that killed seven Baton Rouge residents. Gerald also contends he should serve 40 percent of his term, not 85 percent.
Brett Gerald and Joseph Branch sat shackled side by side in a Baton Rouge courtroom Wednesda…
Gerald's attorneys have not yet filed their post-hearing memorandum, nor has the state.
Bander claims Erwin simply had no power to label Branch's crime a crime of violence.
"Vehicular homicide was not a crime of violence at the time of Mr. Branch's offense, and the court's authority to designate a crime of violence did not exist at the time of his sentencing," he argues.
"Because vehicular homicide was not a crime of violence at the time of Mr. Branch's offense, DOC cannot now decide it is and deprive Mr. Branch of his good time," Bander adds.
Gerald's blood-alcohol concentration was 0.15 percent after his fatal May 2012 crash on La. 67 near Slaughter.
Louisiana’s highest court on Friday let stand Brett Gerald’s 35-year prison sentence in a 20…
In Louisiana for those 21 and older, a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher is considered presumptive evidence of drunken driving.