Where to even begin in the strange and disturbing story of Marietta, Georgia mother Raquel Nelson? The 30-year-old just might serve 36 months in prison after she was convicted last Tuesday of homicide by vehicle in the second degree in the death of her four-year-old son.
Let’s try to get at with the facts, because this one is a tangled mess of confusing laws, bad urban planning, possible racism, and unfortunate circumstances.
Nelson for starters doesn’t even own a car. She was attempting to cross a five-lane highway with her three kids to get to her apartment, after being let off the bus. She had groceries to carry, and rather than walk the half-mile to the designated crosswalk, she took the shortest path between two points.
During this Frogger challenge, Jerry L. Guy hit them while they were crossing the road. Nelson and her younger daughter suffered only minor injuries (her older daughter was not injured), but the boy later died from his injuries. Guy pleaded guilty to hit-and-run, served a six-month sentence and was released Oct. 29, 2010. He will serve the remainder of a five-year sentence on probation, according to Cobb court records, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. But, wait, there’s more:
Guy confessed to having consumed “a little” alcohol earlier in the day, being prescribed pain medication and being partially blind in his left eye, said David Simpson, his attorney.
“This still effects [Jerry] to this day,” Simpson said. “It is tragic all around.”
Guy was originally charged with hit and run, first degree homicide by vehicle and cruelty to children. Charges were later dropped to just the hit and run charge.
Though hard facts are ultimately hard to come by in this case (how fast Guy he driving, how impaired was he, what exactly happened as Nelson attempted to cross the road), it seems the basic facts are that a man who was blind in one eye and possibly under the influence hit a young boy while they were crossing the road. That boy died. Guy served his time in jail.
Here’s where it gets a little strange, as mentioned above. The mother of that boy has now been convicted for her role in the boy’s death because she didn’t cross the street in a crosswalk.
Most interesting is the transportation angle of this story. Transportation for America’s David Goldberg posted a scathing indictment of the whole farce.
He posted this overhead shot of where the accident took place:
“Because Nelson did not lug her exhausted little ones three-tenths of a mile from the bus stop to a traffic signal in order to cross five lanes of traffic, she is guilty of vehicular homicide. Because she did as her fellow bus riders, who crossed at the same time and place, and because she did what pedestrians will do every time – take the shortest reasonable path – she is guilty of vehicular homicide,” Goldberg writes.
He continues: “What about the highway designers, traffic engineers, transit planners and land use regulators who allowed a bus stop to be placed so far from a signal and made no other provision for a safe crossing; who allowed – even encouraged, with wide, straight lanes – prevailing speeds of 50-plus on a road flanked by houses and apartments; who carved a fifth lane out of a wider median that could have provided more of a safe refuge for pedestrians; who designed the entire landscape to be hostile to people trying to get to work and groceries despite having no access to a car?”
Granted those are all good points, but too-often with the law, extenuating circumstances don’t matter. If the Cobb County authorities are charging a person with a specific crime — in this case, not using a painted crosswalk — then ultimately it doesn’t really matter whether Nelson didn’t want to walk to a crosswalk and then back to her car. It doesn’t matter if the city of Atlanta didn’t provide adequate means for her to cross. A crosswalk exists, she could’ve used it, and she’s being held accountable.
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