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Prosecutor seeks to restore rape conviction after judge whose son is serial rapist orders freedom

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BATON ROUGE — The East Baton Rouge Parish district attorney on Wednesday asked the state Supreme Court to void a judge’s decision that threw out a man’s rape conviction, saying the judge couldn’t grant the man freedom when all he asked for was a reduced sentence.

Donald Ray Link was sentenced to life in prison for a 1972 rape and has been behind bars for five decades. He asked 19th Judicial District Judge Gail Horne Ray to reduce his sentence so he could ask for parole. Ray, whose son Nelson Dan Taylor Jr. is a convicted serial rapist, overturned Link’s conviction instead.

Her actions were without precedent, in essence letting the judge bypass a parole or pardon process left to a state board and the governor. 

“Ultimately, the trial court relies on its ‘inherent authority’ to reach its decision,” District Attorney Hillar Moore III said in his filing with the state's highest court. “The fact remains that the trial court does not possess the inherent authority to ignore proper legal procedures and consider whatever it wants, whenever it wants.”

A court administrator said Ray would not be able to comment.

Link was convicted in a Nov. 18, 1972, rape during which he threatened the victim with a butcher knife. The jury heard his confession and sentenced him to life in prison in 1973, and the state Supreme Court affirmed the conviction in 1974.

Moore said Link’s claim that his jury’s instructions were flawed were barred because the state Supreme Court had already considered the claim in 1993. Moore said it was improper to give a second review to issues settled 50 years after the initial Supreme Court review, and 30 years after a second affirmation.

"I've never seen this done ever or heard of it ever done before. Clearly what was before her was something that was really simple to rule on and then to expand it to finding someone not guilty? It's just something that's unheard of," Moore said in an interview.

Ray had cited a portion of the law called an "errors patent review" that lets appeals courts consider whether an obvious error occurred in a case. Moore said judges at Ray's level are not entitled to conduct such a review.

"She has no authority whatsoever to do what she did and her reasoning was erroneous," Moore said.

The judge’s son was convicted at age 17 after admitting to a series of rapes. Taylor, a former Baton Rouge Magnet High School track star, was accused of breaking into the homes of six girls between October 1995 and April 1996 and raping them. Amid the investigation, detectives said seven of nine girls victimized in a series of attacks were BRHS students.

Taylor’s plea deal took a possible life term off the table and he was sentenced to 50 years in prison. As part of a plea deal, he was required to serve at least 25 years.

Ray last year also reduced bail for an accused rapist, authorizing a lower bond before his alleged victim’s family ever knew. Moore had to go to court to seek De’Aundre Cox’s return to jail. He said at the time the prosecutors were not allowed to argue against lowering the bail; Ray later upheld letting Cox leave under the lower amount.

Ray is also the judge handing the rape charges against three men accused in an assault on LSU student Madison Brooks after a night of drinking in Tigerland in early 2023. 

Court Administrator Diana Gibbens said judicial canons prohibited Ray from commenting.

"A judge shall not, while a proceeding is pending in any Louisiana state court, make any public comment that might reasonably be expected to affect its outcome or impair its fairness, and shall require similar abstention on the part of court personnel subject to his or her direction and control," she said, citing the court rule.

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