Raquel Nelson Speaks on the Today Show About Her Son and Her Court Case

We’ve written quite a bit about Raquel Nelson over the past week or so, but now, we’ll let her speak for herself. The Today Show devoted an eight-minute segment to her case this morning, including an interview with Raquel.

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Nelson’s lawyer, David Savoy, also contacted me this morning to respond to my inquiries about how people can help. (He wouldn’t answer questions about the case itself until sentencing is over.)

Savoy says that while the petitions that are circulating are an important show of support, what really counts are letters to the judge from residents of Cobb County, Georgia — the judge’s own constituents. He emphasized that people should not contact the judge directly, but if Cobb County residents want to email me at tips@usa.streetsblog.org today, I will send the emails on to Savoy and he will present them by hand to the judge. Time is of the essence, because sentencing is tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. This is your chance to respectfully ask the judge for leniency. And remember, she’s not the one who convicted Nelson in the first place — a jury did that. Please include your address on the letter.

Nelson’s aunt, who appears next to her on the Today Show, is setting up a legal defense fund. Many readers expressed interest in contributing to such a fund. I spoke to Nelson’s aunt myself, in between their appearances on the Today Show and MSNBC. She thanks people for their generosity and says they can send contributions to Chase Bank, 1050 E Piedmont Rd, Suite Y, Marietta, Georgia 30062. You can make the check out to Raquel Nelson Legal Defense Fund.

  • Bolwerk

    Walking while black!

  • Anonymous

    Quit all your petty snarking; send letters and sign some petitions. Use mine as a template:

    July 23, 2011

     

    The Honorable Katheryn TanksleyState Court of Cobb
    County12 East Park SquareMarietta, GA 30090-0115
    Dear Judge Tanksley:
    I do not pretend to be an expert in the legal field, but I do recognize
    injustice when I see it.
    The charges of vehicular homicide, reckless conduct, and jaywalking against
    Raquel Nelson were over-reaching in their scope. Ms. Nelson has already paid a
    price no one should ever have to pay, and she certainly was not reckless.
    Further, at the stretch of road in question, crossing even in the crosswalk (a
    third of a mile in either direction) is a death-defying stunt.
    As such, I request leniency in her sentencing. Like many who are writing you,
    I do hope your legal training and basic human decency trump over the letter of
    the law or political expediency.
    I do not know how we have reached a place where a woman crossing the street –
    who was, herself, injured – with her children loses a child and becomes a victim
    of the system that is supposed to be her champion. I do not know, and I do not
    understand.
    Thank you for your consideration.
    Sincerely,
    Peter EngelNew York, NY

  • Anonymous

    Quit all your petty snarking; send letters and sign some petitions. Use mine as a template:

    July 23, 2011

     

    The Honorable Katheryn TanksleyState Court of Cobb
    County12 East Park SquareMarietta, GA 30090-0115
    Dear Judge Tanksley:
    I do not pretend to be an expert in the legal field, but I do recognize
    injustice when I see it.
    The charges of vehicular homicide, reckless conduct, and jaywalking against
    Raquel Nelson were over-reaching in their scope. Ms. Nelson has already paid a
    price no one should ever have to pay, and she certainly was not reckless.
    Further, at the stretch of road in question, crossing even in the crosswalk (a
    third of a mile in either direction) is a death-defying stunt.
    As such, I request leniency in her sentencing. Like many who are writing you,
    I do hope your legal training and basic human decency trump over the letter of
    the law or political expediency.
    I do not know how we have reached a place where a woman crossing the street –
    who was, herself, injured – with her children loses a child and becomes a victim
    of the system that is supposed to be her champion. I do not know, and I do not
    understand.
    Thank you for your consideration.
    Sincerely,
    Peter EngelNew York, NY

  • Anonymous

    Quit all your petty snarking; send letters and sign some petitions. Use mine as a template:

    July 23, 2011

     

    The Honorable Katheryn TanksleyState Court of Cobb
    County12 East Park SquareMarietta, GA 30090-0115
    Dear Judge Tanksley:
    I do not pretend to be an expert in the legal field, but I do recognize
    injustice when I see it.
    The charges of vehicular homicide, reckless conduct, and jaywalking against
    Raquel Nelson were over-reaching in their scope. Ms. Nelson has already paid a
    price no one should ever have to pay, and she certainly was not reckless.
    Further, at the stretch of road in question, crossing even in the crosswalk (a
    third of a mile in either direction) is a death-defying stunt.
    As such, I request leniency in her sentencing. Like many who are writing you,
    I do hope your legal training and basic human decency trump over the letter of
    the law or political expediency.
    I do not know how we have reached a place where a woman crossing the street –
    who was, herself, injured – with her children loses a child and becomes a victim
    of the system that is supposed to be her champion. I do not know, and I do not
    understand.
    Thank you for your consideration.
    Sincerely,
    Peter EngelNew York, NY

  • Anonymous

    Quit all your petty snarking; send letters and sign some petitions. Use mine as a template:

    July 23, 2011

     

    The Honorable Katheryn TanksleyState Court of Cobb
    County12 East Park SquareMarietta, GA 30090-0115
    Dear Judge Tanksley:
    I do not pretend to be an expert in the legal field, but I do recognize
    injustice when I see it.
    The charges of vehicular homicide, reckless conduct, and jaywalking against
    Raquel Nelson were over-reaching in their scope. Ms. Nelson has already paid a
    price no one should ever have to pay, and she certainly was not reckless.
    Further, at the stretch of road in question, crossing even in the crosswalk (a
    third of a mile in either direction) is a death-defying stunt.
    As such, I request leniency in her sentencing. Like many who are writing you,
    I do hope your legal training and basic human decency trump over the letter of
    the law or political expediency.
    I do not know how we have reached a place where a woman crossing the street –
    who was, herself, injured – with her children loses a child and becomes a victim
    of the system that is supposed to be her champion. I do not know, and I do not
    understand.
    Thank you for your consideration.
    Sincerely,
    Peter EngelNew York, NY

  • Again, please note that Nelson’s lawyer is urging people NOT to contact the judge directly. He thinks this could annoy her and potentially hurt the case. He says he’ll deliver letters by hand, but only from Cobb County residents.

    You don’t have time to snail-mail a letter to her now anyway — the sentencing is tomorrow morning.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, my apologies. You’re right Tanya. When I sent this Saturday, another link asked for direct letters; in retrospect, not a good idea.

    Please sign the petition that’s linked to Change.org.

  • J

    Wow. Can we put on trial the planners who created the suburban sprawl zoning regulations, the engineers that designed this massive roadway with no crosswalks, the politicians who approved/encouraged this type of development, and the electorate who backed the whole process? This death was preventable. You build everything around driving – massive arterials designed to move many cars at high speeds – and the people who can’t afford a car or can’t drive are quite literally left on the side of the road.

  • Eileen

    Thanks for the keeping us updated on this, and especially the info on the legal defense fund.

  • Eileen

    Thanks for the keeping us updated on this, and especially the info on the legal defense fund.

  • Sparkleandgems

    Sent you an email Tanya. I live in Cobb County.  Thank you so much!

  • In the state of Georgia, ALL traffic violations are misdemeanors. So having expired tags or going 5 over the speed limit could hypothetically land someone in 12 months in jail. There is no uniform sentencing or unified bail schedule like you might find in other states. That said, although the maximum penalty is 36 months (12 months for each count) I highly doubt she will serve any more than probation. Most likely, I would expect a suspended sentence from the judge. Anything above that would be cruel and unusual punishment and be appealable. Regardless, it should be appealed, as there is an unmarked crosswalk at Austell Circle and Austell Road. While it may be unsafe, that is a judgment call and not a clear determination. 

    The unintended consequence is that rather than putting a pedestrian crosswalk (with adequate warning), the bus stop might just be ripped out. This is what has happened in California after a Supreme Court case, Bonanno vs. CCCTA, that says that transit agencies have some liability for bus stops at unsafe locations. Local transit agencies have been systematically ripping out bus stops on arterial streets where they are not at traffic signals, in order to avoid liability. This results in half mile or even one mile gaps in bus stops in suburban areas, even when there are dense housing developments between the signalized intersections. In this case, it would now be a 2/3 mile distance between stops, from Cunningham Road to the south and Cochran Road to the north, the next traffic signals on Austell Road. The apartment complex would now have no bus stops and be 1/3 a mile away from either intersection. While prosecuting someone for this tragedy is uncalled for, transit advocates need to be careful not to end up hurting transit in the longer run, as it becomes less convenient to riders.

  • CobbCountyforReal

    Ok, I have a LOT to say about this.  First of all, I used to LIVE in Cobb county, so I know of what I speak.  Let’s get that clear up front.  I am a white man and am the first to cry foul when someone plays the racist card.  Here, that may or may not be true.  What definitely is true, per the news stories, is that the jury was entirely middle class white people (which, in Cobb county, means upper middle class whites who live in areas where public transportation doesn’t run). If you’ve never been to Atlanta, you don’t know that it is a VERY segregated city.  I make no racial statement at all or an opinion about it, I’m just stating that north of the city (for 30 miles) is almost all middle to upper class white suburbs.  Downtown and south is lower class and minority.  That’s just the way it is.  Cobb county (the northwest suburbs) is segregated within that.  North and east Cobb are almost exclusively middle to upper class white neighborhoods with no public transportation (it’s not needed).  From Marietta (the county seat, where the courts are) south and west is almost exclusively lower middle and poor neighborhoods that rely a lot on public transportation.  So that’s what is meant when it is said that the jury could not walk in her shoes.
    Now, to the “system” in Cobb county.  This case has gotten INTERNATIONAL attention (it’s in the UK Guardian this week), all of the Atlanta news channels are all over it.  The woman was on the Today show yesterday.  But, the Marietta Daily Journal (the newspaper of Cobb county) has said NOTHING about it…..ever!  The good ol’ boys system is the way it works here.  It’s all in who you know and how high they rank. And if your attorney doesn’t “know” anybody, you’re screwed. The sheriff there is known as the #3 toughest sheriff in the US — see the sheriff’s website where they boast about it on the front page.  He’s only two behind sheriff Arpaio of Maricopa County, AZ infamy.
    Cobb has a higher % of people on death row than any county in Georgia.  Many of the judges are corrupt and have been there so long that nobody dares try to unseat them.  The judges contribute to each other’s campaigns, and lawyers who appear before them contribute as well.  The prosecutors, many of them anyhow, are just an extension of the judges, and prosecute for anything and everything they can think of.  As someone else said, there is no normal bond schedule here, like a normal court system.  The judges do whatever they darn well please.
    One of the judges (probably the most notorious one) threw and 87 year old woman in prison for 3 years recently for a genuine accident where she hit a child.  Thank God the GA Board of Pardons and Paroles saw the lunacy in that and let her out in just under 90 days.  This is the kind of stuff that happens here!  But that judge is a fixture in the community and is untouchable. The county has a 98% conviction rate, and I can assure you it isn’t because 98% of people are guilty.  They’re scared to death to go to trial because of this exact type of case and plead just to get probation and try to pick up the pieces. And, of course, the DA’s severely overcharge every case knowing full well that defendants will plead guilty in exchange for dropping most of them because they’re scared to death, having heard these horror stories themselves.  The DA gets their conviction and the defendant is stuck with a record for life on things that, often, would not have ever been charged in another city or state.
    As far as the sentence for the guy driving the car, I’m not concerned about him.  I had a friend whose son was on probation in Cobb for something extremely minor.  She regularly told me what a HELL it is to be on probation in Cobb.  The officers are well-known for harassment and throwing you back in jail for reasons that would be laughable anywhere else.  So this guy will wish he had just done time…again, not concerned.
    But this woman should not be going to jail….period.  I don’t know what happened today in the sentencing, but I just looked at the Cobb jail records, and this woman is not there.  So the judge must have gotten the clear message from all the attention and protesting around this case that she had better not put this woman behind bars.
    For those of you who ‘ASS’ume that if a jury convicts there must have been a good reason, or that if a grand jury indicts there must be a good reason, or if someone is charged there must be a good reason, or if someone is arrested there must be a good reason, you do yourself and society a disservice….and you DEFINITELY don’t understand Cobb County, Georgia.  Should you ever find yourself sucked into the “system” in Cobb County (it doesn’t take much), God help you.  Your attitude will change ‘right quick’ (as we say in thae South).

  • Eileen

    Thanks for the insights.  But the sentencing hasn’t happened yet; it’s today (7/26) at 10:30, so that may be why you aren’t seeing anything.

  • do something, be the change you want to see in the world. Install crosswalks and signs at all bus stops.

    http://www.change.org/petitions/crosswalks-at-all-bus-stops

  • Ms Nelson was sentenced to 12 months probation today:
    http://www.ajc.com/news/cobb/mom-gets-probation-and-1042791.html?cxtype=rss_news

    She should never have been charged and this should never have happened.  The driver was blind in one eye, had been drinking that night and was on painkillers. 

    Cobb County should be embarrassed by this miscarriage of justice.

  • Clutch J

    Wow, it’s just astonishing how little street design figured into Today’s framing. Ms. Nelson showed much composure and the interviewer much compassion, but the traffic engineers and planners who played such a prominent role in this tale got away with it. If our ideas can’t penetrate the media fog in a story such as this, what hope do we have?

  • Tyais Terry
  • Wow.  thanks for the insight.  the judicial system sounds just as out of wack as the transit system.  :-/

    http://thebuschallenge.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/entrapment-at-the-bus-stop/

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Raquel Nelson Likely to Opt For a New Trial, Her Lawyer Says

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UPDATE 7/27: Raquel Nelson has, in fact, chosen the option of a new trial. The last thing the jury heard from Raquel Nelson’s defense lawyer, before they convicted her, was the tape of her frantic 911 call after her son, A.J., was hit by a car. “1-2-3-4-5-6, doing chest compressions on her son, screaming,” recalls […]