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Court rips ‘grossly erroneous’ decision by judge presiding over LSU student’s attack: ‘Abuse of discretion’

Court rips ‘grossly erroneous’ decision by judge presiding over LSU student’s attack: ‘Abuse of discretion’
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A Louisiana judge’s dismissal of a 1972 rape conviction was a “grossly erroneous ruling,” Louisiana’s Supreme Court said in its ruling that overturned the decision.

Judge Gail Horne Ray, who’s presiding over a high-profile case involving the alleged rape of LSU student Madison Brooks, dismissed Donald Ray Link’s 1972 conviction, a motion that wasn’t even requested by his lawyers. 

Link and his lawyers went before Judge Ray to ask for parole eligibility; instead, he was cut free, which sparked a confrontation with the East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s Office.

“The district court judge’s ill-conceived response to the order was to issue a grossly erroneous ruling that had a retaliatory if not contemptuous tone and, incredibly, resulted in the fashioning of an illegal remedy that even the defendant had not requested,” according to the state Supreme Court’s May 30 ruling.

JUDGE PRESIDING OVER LSU STUDENT’S RAPE CASE MAKES UNPRECEDENTED DECISION, SPARKING QUESTIONS OF CONFLICTS

Judge Gail Horne Ray, who's presiding over the alleged rape case of involving LSU sophomore Madison Brooks, made an unprompted, unprecedented decision to vacate a 1972 rape conviction during the defendant's hearing to request parole eligibility.

Judge Gail Horne Ray, who is presiding over the alleged rape case involving LSU sophomore Madison Brooks, made an unprompted, unprecedented decision to vacate a 1972 rape conviction during the defendant’s hearing to request parole eligibility.  (State of Louisiana)

The two-page decision, which was obtained by Fox News Digital, is rife with harsh language about Ray. 

“It is certainly not a means by which a district court can vacate a decades-long, final conviction in response to a motion to clarify sentence,” a state Supreme Court judge wrote in the decision. 

EXCLUSIVE: LSU DEATH: MADISON BROOKS’ LAST TEXT TO MOM, WHO ‘KNEW SOMETHING TERRIBLE HAPPENED’

“I write separately to express my concern about a district court judge engaging in such a patent abuse of discretion in response to an order from this court.”

Ray has a history of leniency in rape cases since she took office in January 2023, which set up several confrontations with current DA Hillar Moore III,

madison brooks posing for photos

Madison Brooks is remembered as a beloved adventure seeker in her obituary. Brooks, 19, died Jan. 15, 2023. (The Brooks family)

Three months into her tenure, she released De’Aundre Cox, who was accused of raping his preteen neighbor, without alerting the victim or notifying Moore’s office.

Decades before becoming a judge, she was her son’s defense lawyer after his mid-1990s arrest for multiple rapes. 

He ultimately pleaded guilty to several rapes between November 1995 and 1996, and Ray fought for a lighter sentence. 

‘THERE’S A REAL HUMAN COST’ AS COLLEGE RAPE SURVIVOR PUT HERSELF IN THE SPOTLIGHT FOR JUSTICE

The judge’s rulings in rape cases, coupled with her own son’s criminal history, at the very least, creates poor optics in an already controversial rape case and stoked angst among Brooks’ family that Madison wasn’t going to get a fair trial. 

Judge Ray didn’t respond to Fox News Digital’s questions about potential conflicts of interest and the state Supreme Court’s ruling or if she considered recusing herself from the Brooks case. 

Madison Brooks Foundation billboard

A billboard for the Madison Brooks Foundation in Times Square May 8, 2023. Brooks was fatally struck by a car after an alleged rape. (Julia Bonavita/Fox News Digital )

Madison Brooks Foundation billboard in Times Square

Ashley Baustert, mother of Madison Brooks, stands in front of a billboard for the Madison Brooks Foundation in Times Square May 8, 2023. Brooks was fatally struck by a car. (Julia Bonavita/Fox News Digital )

Ray let Link go because she argued the jury was given “improper instructions” during the trial, which she called a “glaring error.”

Moore said it was raised in an appeal and shot down. The Supreme Court also raised this point in the ruling.

WOMAN WHO SURVIVED SEX ASSAULT AS TEEN REACTS TO JUDGE’S PUNISHMENT FOR VACATING ATTACKER’S CONVICTION

Moore didn’t respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment, and Brooks’ family’s lawyer declined comment as he navigated pre-trial motions.

Ray and East Baton Rouge’s DA will share a courtroom as the presiding judge and lead prosecutor, respectively, in the alleged rape of 19-year-old LSU sophomore Madison Brooks, which captured national attention last year. 

WATCH: MADISON BROOKS’ MOM’S TRIBUTE VIDEO 

She was allegedly raped by four suspects — Kaivon Washington, Everett Lee, Casen Carver and Desmond Carter — in a car after a night of drinking at a bar in Tigerland, which is a LSU social hot spot notorious for crime, poor lighting and no sidewalks. 

After the alleged attack, the suspects reportedly left the 19-year-old sophomore, who was stumbling and drunk, on the side of a busy four-lane highway in the middle of the night. 

‘LAUGHING’ SUSPECT IN LSU ALLEGED RAPE RECORDS ATTACK: ‘THEY FINNA RAPE HER’

She was hit by a car and died from her injuries despite efforts by two good Samaritans to help her.

The suspects’ lawyers, some of whom are civil rights attorneys, claimed there was a racist undertone in the prosecution’s fierce pursuit of high-level charges against Black men accused of raping a woman following public outcry. 

mugshots of three of the suspects in Madison Brooks' case, and photo of Madison Brooks

Pictured, from left to right: Kaivon Washington, Everett Lee, Casen Carver and Madison Brooks.  (East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office/Instagram)

Photo of Desmond Carter

Desmond Carter, 17, is being tried as an adult in the alleged rape of LSU sophomore Madison Brooks. (East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office)

Judge Ray is a Silver Life member of the NAACP and received the Justice for Youth Award from the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana and the President’s Award from the Baton Rouge NAACP. 

The Baton Rouge NAACP backed the judge and her work in the community and dedication to justice. 

“Judge Gail Horne Ray has a remarkable service record and a deep dedication to justice. Her lifetime membership status in our organization is not dependent on her decision-making abilities,” a Baton Rouge NAACP spokesperson told Fox News Digital in an email. 

WOMAN WHO SURVIVED SEX ASSAULT AS TEEN REACTS TO JUDGE’S PUNISHMENT FOR VACATING ATTACKER’S CONVICTION

“Our membership and supporters come from various backgrounds, including all races, creeds, belief systems, sexual orientations and political affiliations. The NAACP stands firmly behind Judge Ray and all members committed to justice. 

“We urge the state Supreme Court to consider the broader implications of any decision in the context of a fair and equitable judicial process. Our organization’s history is deeply rooted in the pursuit of equality and justice for all.

“We trust that the state Supreme Court will consider the broader implications of any decision in the context of a fair and equitable judicial process.”

READ LOUISIANA SUPREME COURT’S DECISION — APP USERS CLICK HERE:

A sign reads

Tigerland in Baton Rouge Jan. 24, 2023. Reggie’s Bar, located in Tigerland, is reportedly one of the last places LSU student Madison Morgan was seen before her death. (KR/Mega for Fox News Digital)

All the suspects arrested and charged in Brooks’ attack have pleaded not guilty and maintained their innocence. 

Their lawyers have argued the sex was consensual and went as far as saying this would not even be a criminal case if Brooks did not die.

EXCLUSIVE: MOM OF AMERICANS IN BAHAMAS SEX ATTACK REVEALS DAUGHTER’S HEART-STOPPING TEXT

Carver and Carter are scheduled to appear July 2 in court, which will be closed to the public because of the sensitive nature of the subject, Carver’s lawyer Joe Long said.

During the court appearance, Long expects to get access to Brooks’ phone data.

LSU sorority student Madison Brooks smiles in social photos

LSU sorority student Madison Brooks was hit and killed by a ride-sharing car. (@madibrookss/Instagram)

LSU sorority student Madison Brooks smiles in social photos

LSU sorority student Madison Brooks was hit and killed by a ride-sharing car. (@madibrookss/Instagram)

“After this hearing, the defense expects to get into the blood alcohol data and challenge the blood alcohol content at the time of the alleged sexual contact,” Long said. 

Prosecutors said her blood alcohol level was .319%, which the defense intends to challenge. The legal limit for drivers in Louisiana is .08%.

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“Under Louisiana (law), the state must prove that MB (Madison Brooks) could not legally consent to sex because of a stupor brought on by alcohol intoxication. Stupor is a medical term,” Long said.

“We look forward to litigating this issue in the fall. We ask the public for patience and to withhold judgment as we are under a protective order and cannot share the information we have until trial.”

Chris Eberhart is a crime and US news reporter for Fox News Digital. Email tips to chris.eberhart@fox.com or on Twitter @ChrisEberhart48.

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