Man accused of killing cyclist with his car found guilty

Joseph Branch found guilty of killing cyclist and injuring another
Joseph Branch (Source: East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office)
Joseph Branch (Source: East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office)
Nathan Crowson
Nathan Crowson
Daniel Morris leaving court Thursday afternoon (Source: WAFB)
Daniel Morris leaving court Thursday afternoon (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A man accused of hitting two cyclists with his vehicle, killing one of them, has been found guilty of vehicular homicide. The defense rested at 3:30 p.m. Friday after multiple witnesses were called to the stand. The jury started deliberations at 5:03 p.m., and took about 50 minutes to reach their verdict.

The jury was seated Tuesday and opening arguments began on Wednesday.

Joseph Branch hit Nathan Crowson and Daniel Morris with his vehicle on January 21, 2012 on Perkins Road near Pennington Biomedical Center. Crowson was pronounced dead at the scene, and Morris was in the hospital for nearly a month due to the injuries he suffered in the crash.

According to a DWI officer, he testified that when he arrived on scene, he smelled a very strong odor of alcohol on Branch and that the man also had slurred speech and blood shot eyes and at various points refused to complete field sobriety tests.

A video was shown in court of the officer giving Branch instructions and demonstrating what to do for the field sobriety test. Branch begins to do it and then says, "I can't do that," and refused to complete the test.

Investigators say Branch had a blood alcohol level of .307 at the time of the crash, which is nearly four times the legal limit. Branch's attorney, DeVan Pardue, has said in the past that he believes the machine used to test his client's blood alcohol level gave an inaccurate reading.

More than 40 people were on a list as potential witnesses for this trial, including law enforcement and friends of the victim. Danny Morris, the other person to be hit by Branch's car, took the stand Friday morning and says because of the crash, he has constant memory problems.

"Everything hazy prior to the crash," he said. "My memory is like a computer with RAM & ROM. I can remember certain things, but it now has to be triggered."

He said before the accident he would ride his bike for miles, skateboard, jump and do everything that is normally taken for granted. His pelvis was shattered in the crash.

The prosecutor asked if he could still ride a bike, and he responded "I can but it's limited. I can go in a joy ride but I can't make a day of it."

He also testified that he has total fear of "some idiot" killing him.

Morris now lives in Los Angeles, CA. "After this, I didn't want to be here anymore. I'm limited to the types of jobs I can perform," he said.

Branch faces 5 to 30 years in prison and will be sentenced at a later date.

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