Poverty and Single Mothers
This mother will live with the anguish of an innocent decision, trying to cope with life and opting to shorten the time of inconvenience by a few minutes' worth of chance-taking. That decision and the coincidences that followed in its wake took her youngest child from her and left her living in a psychological maelstrom of blame.
She is blamed because she is poor, because she is a single mother, because she is exhausted with trying to cope, because she tried to have a shopping expedition with her children, and then get them home expeditiously to face another day. A day burdened with more cares, with work, with having the children cared for.
She lives in a densely-occupied multiple dwelling where hundreds of other poor people find they can pay the rent; the elderly and others like herself. Close to a bus stop where these under-privileged can count on inferior service.
To service the large apartment block where so many people live in close proximity to one another there should have been a cross-walk where they could cross the expanse of highway safely to their home destination after disembarking from the bus that carried them there. The nearest cross-walk to that bus stop was a short walk away; a long walk if you're tired and your children cranky.
Raquel Nelson, who lives in Marietta, Georgia had just got off the bus that had taken her and her three children home from a shopping expedition. They were late, the children were tired, and they were anxious to get home. Her youngest child, four, watched as another child ran onto the road and he followed.
He, his frantic mother and a sibling were all hit by a speeding vehicle. A hit-and-run. That's how Raquel Nelson lost her youngest child. Killed on impact by a van driven by a young man who shouldn't have been driving, and who was later apprehended. She was given a citation for jaywalking.
And because of the gravity of the results of that jaywalking she was convicted of homicide by vehicle and reckless conduct, by a jury. She anticipated she might receive up to a 3-year jail sentence. The young man who killed her son got 6 months as his penalty. He is sight-impaired, had no driving license, was inebriated, and fled the scene.
Jerry Guy, like most drinking drivers who cause accidents and death got off pretty lightly, and he's free to resume his life. He may never think again of the child whose life his vehicle took.
Raquel Nelson will think about her child forever, her mourning will never stop. The anguished time she spent awaiting trial and judgement was one of misery, thinking of the potential of separation while incarcerated, from her remaining children.
In the end, she has been spared that; she will not go to prison for her lapse in judgement; an entirely explicable lapse that most people would most likely choose to make, under those same circumstances.
Judge Kathryn Tanksley decided on a year's probation for the 30-year-old mother of two remaining children, along with 40 hours of community service. Lastly, offering her a new trial. Where, perhaps, a jury of her peers the second time around, might think a little deeper about convicting her, as the previous one did.
The jury that convicted her was made up of individuals who evidently had, according to Raquel Nelson "never been in my shoes"; none had ever taken public transportation.
The combination of poverty, inadequate municipal services, three tired children out at night later than anticipated, their mother anxious to get them settled for the evening, a precipitous decision, and intervening events sealed the fate of this small family.