Monday, July 25, 2011

Jaywalking or Vehicular Homicide?

How many times in your life have you crossed the street outside of a crosswalk?  Probably more times than you remember, right?  Imagine if you crossed the road with your family and a vehicle ran into and killed one of your family members.  Would you expect to be charged for the death of your loved one?

Bus stop and crash scene.  Photo by T4America.
 That is exactly what happened to single mother, Raquel Nelson, on April 20, 2010.   On July 12, 2011, she was convicted of vehicular homicide in the 2nd degree, reckless conduct and failure to use a crosswalk and is currently facing up to 3 years in prison.

As she awaits sentencing, she mourns the loss of her 4 year old son and is making arrangements for the care of her 2 other children in case she is sentenced to prison.

Nelson lives in an apartment building near a busy 4 lane highway in Marietta, Georgia.  The nearest crosswalk from the public bus stop is almost 2,000 feet away (3+ blocks) from the bus stop and another 2,000 feet back to the road leading to her apartment community.  Sound like poor city planning, to anyone besides me?

30 year old Raquel Nelson and her 3 children (Tyler, 9, A.J., 4, and Lauryn, 3) went out on the day before her birthday to have pizza and shop at a Walmart.  They were coming home after dark, over an hour later than they planned because they missed an earlier bus.   Juggling her purchases and 3 tired children, Nelson, along with other bus passengers, took the shortest route to cross the highway.   As the family was walking across, they were ran down by a hit and run driver.  Nelson and her youngest daughter were injured, but 4 year old A.J. Nelson did not survive the accident.

Raquel Nelson at roadside memorial for her son, A.J.
Photo by Phil Skinner, AJC.
Who is to blame for the death of this child?  Is it the single mother, not wanting to walk the streets at night with her small children and rushing to get home safely after dark?  Is it the city transit planners, or highway traffic engineers who are paid to design safe passageway for pedestrians using public transportation?  Or is it the driver, Jerry L. Guy, who has 2 prior hit and run accidents, is partially blind in 1 eye, admitted to using painkillers and alcohol before the incident and later pled guilty to the hit and run? For more info on the driver, click to -
Right photo of Jerry L. Guy, courtesy of Cobb County Police.

I would say the mother, the city planners, and the driver are all at fault, but none intended nor wanted this “accident” to occur.  The driver served 6 months in jail and was released on 5 year probation, while the victim’s mother is facing a whopping 3 years in prison after being unlawfully convicted.  I say unlawfully because the law requires a jury to be made up of one’s peers.   The 6 middle class white folks who all admitted they do not use public transportation could hardly be classified as a peer to Nelson - a poor, single, African American mother who doesn’t own a vehicle.

Why did the prosecutor bring charges against Nelson in the first place?  Apparently the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a story about jaywalking on May 14th highlighting Raquel’s incident and made note that no charges had been brought against her.  3 days later, the Georgia Solicitor General’s office brought several trumped up charges against her.  What is the point of the unfair, overzealous charging of Nelson if only to make an example of her and thereby boost the profile and conviction rate of the prosecutors?

Are you as outraged by this as I am?  Raquel is being sentenced Tuesday!  Please get involved.  We all complain about unfair parking tickets, towing and ridiculous disparities of the legal system.  Make a difference now by holding the prosecutors responsible for the unjust prosecution of Raquel Nelson. Contact Solicitor General Barry Morgan at or Facebook:  Let it be known how you feel about the abuse of power in the case of Raquel Nelson.
Photo of Barry Morgan thru
Sign a petition to request an overturn of conviction in Nelson case:

Never worry about numbers.  Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.  ~Mother Teresa

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