As an Atlanta catastrophic injury and wrongful death lawyer, I have helped many families dealing with the tragic wrongful death of a child. There is no way to discuss this subject without an inherent level of pain and discomfort, because it is unnatural to outlive one’s child.
In a local story that has made national headlines, a Cobb County mom was recently convicted under Georgia law of vehicular homicide in the second degree for the death of her child, but the legal proceedings surrounding the accident continue.
As most Atlanta residents are aware, grieving mom Raquel Nelson has to live with her decision to walk across a street outside a crosswalk for the rest of her life. Her four-year-old son was struck and later died from injuries sustained by a hit-and-run driver. But should Ms. Nelson be held responsible for the death of her son? It appears that she does not believe so.
After the Atlanta area mom was convicted of the Georgia crime of homicide by vehicle in the second degree – based on the fact that she had not used a crosswalk and “acted recklessly” — she has said in interviews on national television that her grief began all over again.
One of the reasons for this was that she could have ended up serving a longer prison sentence than the hit-and-run driver who hit her son and killed him. This possibility made national news and was upsetting to many.
But Judge Katherine Tanksley heard the public outcry and only sentenced her to 40 hours of community service and 12 months of probation. The judge suspended the fines associated with these crimes. Her sentencing was not the maximum 36 months she could have received.
But she said no thank you and that is her right. Instead, she has decided that she would like to defend herself in a new trial. Perhaps because she believes her decision to walk across a street from a bus stop, rather than in a crosswalk, does not make her legally responsible for the death of her child. A tragedy she has been grieving since the accident occurred.
Ms. Nelson was prosecuted under, among other laws, a provision of Title 40 of the Georgia Code, Motor Vehicles & Traffic, which provides for homicide by vehicle in the second degree. Having been found guilty of violating this provision and others, she would have a criminal record. But, if she is acquitted in the new trial, she will have no record.
Prior to sentencing, she had expressed concern that there were no single moms on her jury and that any single mom would understand a quick decision to walk outside a cross-walk to get home. Jury selection is very important in every case, and perhaps the make-up of another jury will improve her chances of acquittal.
Ms. Nelson had testified during trial that the bus left her and her three children off across the four-lane Austell Road and that this was closer to her apartment than the crosswalk that was 0.3 miles distance. She did not want to walk with her children in the dark and was trying to get home quickly, so she did what many of us might do, she took the fastest way home and walked across the road with her children.
Some community members agree that Georgia’s vehicular homicide laws need to be amended to apply to those only driving vehicles and that bus stops should be placed closer to crosswalks. It remains to be seen what happens during the retrial, but whatever the outcome Ms. Nelson appears determined to fight the charges.
As a Gwinnett County personal injury lawyer, with a practice that covers the Atlanta area and the state, I have represented many families in need of help through the legal system. If you have been injured in an accident, please do not hesitate to contact me for a free personal consultation about your situation at one of my local offices.
About Charles Scholle
Charles Scholle is a Gwinnett County wrongful death and accident lawyer, serving the surrounding area, including Dekalb, Duluth, Buford and all other cities and counties. As a catastrophic injury lawyer, he focuses entirely on helping clients recover from injuries of all kinds and represents grieving families when a fatality occurs. He has offices in several convenient locations around the Atlanta area, including Buckhead, Decatur and the Perimeter.