Family members disgusted with proposed sentence for convicted drunk driver

Family members disgusted with proposed sentence for convicted drunk driver
Nathan Crowson
Nathan Crowson
Daniel Morris leaving court during the October trial. (Source: WAFB)
Daniel Morris leaving court during the October trial. (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Relatives of a bicyclist who was killed by a drunk driver are furious over a proposal that defense attorneys plan to bring before the court next week.

Joseph Branch was found guilty last year of killing one bicyclist and crippling another on Perkins Road. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday, March 18.

"It's been the worst three years of my life, hands down," Matthew Crowson said.

Life for Matthew Crowson and his family has not been the same since January 21, 2012. That is when his brother, Nathan, was hit and killed by Branch, who was driving drunk. Branch's blood alcohol content was .307, three times the legal limit in the state of Louisiana.

Nathan's friend, Danny Morris, was also hit. He was paralyzed.

"I'm tired of the nightmares, you know. I'm tired of all of it," Crowson said.

In October, a jury found Branch guilty of vehicular homicide and negligent injuring. The maximum penalty for the crimes is 30 years behind bars.

"We want 30 years. He may not get it, but that's what we want on the table," Crowson said.

But this week they learned Branch's attorneys have a lighter punishment in mind. According to the Sentencing Memorandum on Behalf of Joseph Branch, his attorneys are recommending that Branch spend half of five to nine years behind bars, that he be placed on probation for the other half, have an ignition interlock device installed in his car and pay Morris' medical bills.

"If he gets back on the street, he's going to hurt someone else. He's a ticking time bomb. As far as the sentencing goes, I think it's just a slap in the face," Crowson said.

The defense's document states that Branch's life has forever changed. His attorneys claim Branch went through extensive substance abuse treatment, and that the sentence they are recommending will allow Branch to pay his debt to society by teaching others about the consequences of drinking and driving.

"He was ordered by the court to do all those things. How is that genuine at all? How is that sincere," Crowson asked.

Furthermore, Crowson said, while defense attorneys claim Branch was told to show no emotion in court, he does not believe Branch is sorry. Crowson has prepared a statement he intends to read in court before the judge sentences Branch. He said regardless of the outcome, he is ready to put this behind him so he can focus on healing.

"I'm not going to get my brother back, and that guy doesn't care," Crowson said.

The Assistant District Attorney handling the case, Julie Cullen, did not return calls requesting comment on the defense's proposal.

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