Justice should never be cruel

SKS staff

In April 2010, Raquel Nelson—a Georgia mother of three—crossed the street to her apartment after getting off of a bus with her children in tow. While crossing, her 4-year-old son got away from her and was struck by a car; the accident caused fatal injuries to the boy, while Nelson and one of her two daughters suffered minor injuries.

Just five weeks after the accident, investigators showed up at Nelson’s door to charge her with three misdemeanors: second-degree vehicular manslaughter, failure to cross at a crosswalk—which was three-tenths of a mile away from the bus stop—and reckless conduct, according to court records. Each count carried a possible year in prison.

In July, a jury convicted Nelson although prosecutors didn’t recommend jail time for the grieving mother. At that time, Nelson faced more jail time than Jerry Guy, the driver of the car that killed her son. Guy was sentenced to five years in prison for the accident, but only served six months and is serving the remainder of his sentence on probation.

Since the accident and Nelson’s arrest, this case has caught the attention of parents, the NAACP and transportation advocates—and with good reason. Not only was Nelson unfairly prosecuted, she was also deprived of her private and personal grieving period after the loss of a child. The justice system can be a cruel thing, and in this situation, it presented its ugly side.

Yes, Nelson probably should have crossed the street at the crosswalk because that is what they’re there for—to help prevent this kind of thing from happening. But is this the best way to teach everyone else a lesson about the consequences of jaywalking? Being thorough during an investigation is important, but is this really necessary? The lines of a crosswalk—as the defense argued—don’t guarantee that these things won’t happen anyway; it’s more of a system that works if both parties follow the proper procedures. A system, by the way, that Guy failed to follow in this situation as well as in the past, as he was previously involved in other hit and runs.

A mother should never have to bury her child, so we think Nelson has endured enough. As her attorneys mentioned during the trial, she is probably already blaming and punishing herself for her son’s death. Apparently, the judge feels the same way and has awarded her a little mercy. On July 27, the judge granted Nelson a new trial, which will take place Oct. 25. Hopefully, they’ve realized their insensitive actions and plan to correct them.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Summer Kent Stater editorial board.