Mother whose son was killed in hit-and-run faces two years in jail for jaywalking

Marietta mother Raquel Nelson--who lost her 4-year-old son when a car ran into him as she was headed home from the bus stop with her three children--may face up to two and half years in prison for jaywalking.

The Huffington Post's Radley Balko points out that Nelson may serve six times as many months in prison as the man who ran over her family and drove off.

That man, Jerry Guy, admitted he had been drinking and taking prescribed painkillers the night of the accident, and had been convicted in two earlier hit-and-runs. He served six months in jail for the crime.

A month after her son's death, and three days after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a story called "Jaywalkers Take Deadly Risks," the Georgia Solicitor General's officer charged Nelson with homicide by vehicle and reckless conduct. She was convicted by a jury and will face sentencing next week, the AP reported. In an earlier jaywalking case, another mother was charged with involuntary manslaughter while the driver who hit her daughter was not charged.

Nelson, who doesn't own a car, said she was out shopping for supplies for her birthday with her three children when they missed their bus home, making them an hour late. She described what happened to her that night to the Atlanta Constitution-Journal:

When the Cobb County Transit bus finally stopped directly across from Somerpoint Apartments, night had fallen. She and the children crossed two lanes and waited with other passengers on the raised median for a break in traffic. The nearest crosswalks were three-tenths of a mile in either direction, and Nelson wanted to get her children inside as soon as possible. A.J. carried a plastic bag holding a goldfish they'd purchased.

"One girl ran across the street," Nelson said. "For some odd reason, I guess he saw the girl and decided to run out behind her. I said, 'Stop, A.J.,' and he was in the middle of the street so I said keep going. That's when we all got hit."

Balko asks why city planners are placing bus stops nearly a mile away from the nearest crosswalk. He argues that making the streets safer for people on foot (the area is consistently listed as one of the most unsafe for pedestrians) is a more humane and sensical approach than putting away a mother who has already lost a son. "If their aim was to make an example of a devastated mother to prevent others from jaywalking, they're delusional," he says.

But the Journal-Constitution says the public has been "unsympathetic" with the woman's story, arguing that parents should walk to traffic lights no matter how far away they are.