Raquel Nelson Back in Court, With High Profile Lawyer at Her Defense

Raquel Nelson, the Georgia woman who faced vehicular homicide charges last year when her four-year-old son was killed by a hit-and-run driver, is back in court this week, appealing the results of her trial.

In a case that sparked a national discussion on transportation equity, Georgia pedestrian Raquel Nelson was charged last year with vehicular homicide in the hit-and-run death of her four-year-old son. She was back in court today appealing the verdict handed down by a Cobb County judge in October. Photo: ##http://www.ajc.com/news/cobb/jaywalking-cobb-mom-to-1418813.html## Atlanta Journal-Constitution##

Nelson is asking a Georgia appeals court to dismiss charges of vehicular manslaughter and jaywalking rather than proceed with the retrial granted by a Cobb County judge in October. She is being represented on a pro-bono basis by high-profile Atlanta-based attorney Steve Sadow, whose former clients include rapper T.I. and Howard K. Stern, boyfriend of Anna Nicole Smith. Sadow agreed to take the case after learning of it through the media, saying, “I believe that her prosecution was an injustice.”

It seems even the prosecutors may agree with him. They declined to make an argument at the hearing Tuesday, a surprising move that may indicate that they’re not all that interested anymore in trying to put Nelson in prison. At the end of Nelson’s trial last summer, the judge made a similarly unusual move in offering a new trial before Nelson’s lawyer even had to ask. Experts speculated that she may have had regrets about the way she’d conducted the trial that may have led to the harsh verdict.

The case attracted national attention last summer for what was widely viewed as overzealous prosecution. The mother of three — who was also injured trying to prevent the collision that killed her son — faced three years in prison. Prosecutors based the charges against Nelson on the premise that she was partly responsible for the death because she was jaywalking. Meanwhile, driver Jerry Guy was sentenced to just six months in prison despite two prior hit-and-run convictions and his admission that he was drinking and under the influence of prescription drugs the day of the crash.

The case also focused attention on the perilous conditions for pedestrians in suburban Atlanta. The street Nelson was attempting to cross is a five-lane high-speed arterial. The closest crosswalk was a half-mile in either direction, which many argued was an unreasonable distance to expect pedestrians to travel to cross a road.

Nelson was convicted of vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment and jaywalking by an all-white jury last July. In the wake of nationwide outrage, she was granted her choice of a retrial or one year probation. She opted for retrial.

Sadow said the appeal is based on the claim that there was insufficient evidence to charge Nelson last year. He said he expects a decision by July. If they lose the case, Sadow has said he will represent Nelson at retrial.

3 thoughts on Raquel Nelson Back in Court, With High Profile Lawyer at Her Defense

  1. City and state bureaucrats who manage public rights-of-way always seem to cite the fear of “liability” as a reason to swat away any suggestion to do anything that in any way deviates from the norm.

    And yet, in this instance, a bus stop was placed in a location where pedestrians like Ms. Nelson and her children are forced to risk — or in this tragic case, lose — their lives to use it.

    Here’s my question for people who are knowledgeable about these matters (since I am not): why couldn’t the public agencies that approved these facilities, and that failed to correct the deadly conditions of the road for pedestrians, be sued? Or could they? Would Ms. Nelson have a reasonable shot at a civil case against the responsible public agencies after (hopefully) she gets this unbelievably offensive criminal accusation behind her?

    It also makes me wonder if lawsuits would, on a broader level, be a strategy for forcing public agencies to remedy roadways that are death traps for cyclists and people on foot.

  2. I’d be a little wary of following a lawsuit-based approach in many cases, because unfortunately public agencies’ reaction could make things even worse- the bus stop might be removed, for example, or each intersection might sprout a railing with a “no pedestrian crossing. Cross at crosswalk [1/3 mile away]” sign.

  3. It makes me wonder if lawsuits would, on a broader level, be a
    strategy for forcing public agencies to remedy roadways that are death
    traps for cyclists and people on foot.

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