This week, an Atlanta mother formally appealed a conviction of second-degree vehicular homicide. Raquel Nelson's young son was killed by a drunken hit and run driver as she and her family crossed the street: her plight earned national attention when she was charged and subsequently convicted in connection with her son's death.
The incident happened in April 2010. Nelson had spent the day out with her 2 daughters and young son, and the family was walking home from the bus stop. They needed to cross Austell Road to reach their apartment complex directly across the street, but the nearest crosswalks were a half mile away in either direction. Instead, the family crossed the northbound lanes to the median: as they crossed, 4 year-old A.J. darted away from his mother and ran towards his older sister, who had already crossed to the median safely. He ran directly into the path of an oncoming van. Nelson, who was carrying her young daughter, was also injured in the collision: she lunged towards A.J. in an attempt to save him.
It was later revealed that the driver of the van, Jerry Guy (who fled the scene), had been drinking and taking prescription pain medicine that day. He was also partially blind, and he had been convicted of hit and run on 2 separate occasions in 1997. Guy was also charged - he pled guilty and was sentenced to 6 months in prison. In contrast, Nelson could face 3 years in prison if her conviction is upheld. Prosecutors contend that because Nelson was jaywalking, she bears partial responsibility for her son's death.
It's certainly a controversial case. When Nelson was initially charged, the case received national media coverage, with Georgia prosecutors coming under heavy fire for opting to charge her. Also, it has brought attention to the dangers posed to pedestrians in suburban areas, particularly in Atlanta. Several of Nelson's supporters have argued that it was unreasonable to expect Nelson to walk half a mile with her 3 young children, cross the street, and then walk half a mile back to her home. Further, they argue, that her jaywalking offense doesn't make her criminally responsible for her son's death: instead, that burden lies with Guy.