Appeals court set to take up Gerald case
BATON ROUGE - The First Circuit Court of Appeal is about to take up the case involving a man who killed seven people during a drunk driving crash in 2012.
Brett Gerald pleaded guilty to the crime, and was initially sentenced to 70 years in prison. However, he was re-sentenced last year to 35 years after the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled homicides were a crime of violence and offenders needed to serve nearly 90 percent of their sentence.
Jill Craft is representing the victims' family members, who have been concerned since this case went to court that they haven't gotten a fair shake.
"It's just been such a difficult process and it doesn't have to be and never should have been," Craft said. "What has been an absolute tragedy is compounded by the fact that they have been so disregarded and so ignored."
The victims' family discovered a pre-sentence report did not contain information on Gerald's prior three DWI arrests at the time of his sentencing. The document was not amended until after Gerald had already been sentenced.
"The hardest thing about this case is the fact that my clients all they've tried to do is obtain some measure of justice and have someone listen to them," Craft said.
The three judge panel is expected to take up the appeal next week, but there won't be any oral arguments. That's something that concerns the victims' family, but isn't necessarily unusual according to Craft.
Gerald's attorney Tommy D'Amico believes his client received an unfair sentence.
"If it's a single transaction, you don't look at each individual one as a separate one," D'Amico said. "That's what the judge did."
D'Amico claims the law only allows an offender to receive up to 30 years for a single transaction crash, and he's appealing because Gerald received 35. D'Amico believes a fair sentence in this case is somewhere between 10 to 15 years for the seven deaths.
Craft feels differently.
"What if it were three generations of my family and my nieces, nephews and grandchildren," Craft said. "I can honestly say from my perspective I don't think there's any amount of time that would seem adequate to me."
D'Amico said if the Court of Appeal rules against him, he'll take the issue up to the state Supreme Court. It could take up to three months for the panel to render a decision.
The panel will hear the case on March 26.