Tomorrow, Raquel Nelson, the Marietta mother who lost her 4-year-old son AJ in a hit and run while trying to cross an intersection, will be sentenced. She faces a maximum sentence of 36 months in prison on charges of homicide by vehicle in the second degree, crossing a roadway elsewhere than at a crosswalk and reckless conduct.
Ken Edelstein of Green Building Chronicle in Atlanta shows the traffic conditions that Nelson and her three young children faced on Austell Road:
Earlier on Monday, Nelson appeared on the Today Show and explained more about what happened:
“I was trying to hurry up and get home, so we wouldn’t have to be in the dark,” Nelson said, adding that the crosswalks were too far away.
In reference to the driver, Jerry Guy, who admitted to having consumed a “little” alcohol earlier in the day, Nelson said:
“Even though he had a history of it, I know no one gets up that day and says ‘I’m going to kill a 4-year-old, so I have to forgive that portion of it.”
Guy served only 6 months of a 5-year-sentence; he is to serve the rest of his sentence on probation. But Nelson could end up behind bars for up to 3 years, away from her two daughters who have certainly suffered enough.
Writing on Transportation for America, David Goldberg noted that Nelson was “poised and articulate” during her Today show appearance, talking about how she handles the day-to-day:
You’re always going to relive the moment. It’s hard to explain if you’ve never been through something like this. But you can’t let it dictate what you do. When I’m at work I have to push it away…. My other two daughters are the only way I could have survived this situation, giving me a reason to push forward.
E.D. Kain on Forbes points out that the prosecutor in the case decided to “come down on Nelson as a criminal, when there was certainly no need to do so.” He cites a Huffington Post op-ed by Radley Balko which explains why there are “strong incentives for prosecutors to over-charge defendant” with criminality especially when children are involved, “even when the evidence suggests the death was an accident.” Kain argues that Nelson’s criminal conviction for jaywalking points to a need for a “broader cultural change”:
To do that, you need more people arguing that police and prosecutors are not always on the side of angels, and that sometimes more laws, more convictions, and more tough-on-crime policies don’t make us safer, and too often miss the point of justice to begin with. Shifting attitudes toward law and order is not easy, and every new horror story makes the job more difficult. Every tragedy can push people to pass more laws whether or not those laws actually make us any safer. But in the end, if we are to change the laws we need to change the people who support them, which is no simple task.
It’s an understatement to say that Nelson has been through enough. There is little to gain by sentencing her to three years in prison but much to learn from what she suffered when she was just trying to get her children home before dark.
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