Cobb County State Court Judge Katherine Tanksley handed down an usual sentence stemming from a trial that has garnered national attention. Convicted on three charges after her son was killed by a hit-and-run driver, Raquel Nelson was sentenced on July 26 to 40 hours of community service and 12 months probation or a new trial.
Raquel Nelson, 30, was convicted earlier this month of homicide by vehicle in the second degree, crossing the roadway elsewhere than at a crosswalk and reckless conduct for an incident that occurred on April 10, 2010. Nelson and her three children were attempting to cross Austell Road, a four-lane highway. They had exited a Cobb County Transit Authority bus and were attempting to reach their apartment. Nelson’s 4-year old son, A.J., was struck and killed. Nelson and her younger daughter had minor injuries while the older daughter was not injured.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Raquel Nelson’s attorney, David Savoy, will confer with her about the decision, but initially “she wants to proceed” with a new trial.
Judge Tanksley sentenced Nelson to 12 months probation for the first two counts and 12 months probation for the third count, to be served concurrently. Tanksley also suspended $1,000 fines that could be levied for each misdemeanor count. If Nelson chooses a new trial and is acquitted, her record would be cleared of the prior conviction.
The driver, Jerry L. Guy, admitted to hitting the child, pled guilty to the hit-and-run and served a six-month sentence. Now serving a five-year probation, he was released in October 2010. It was his second conviction for hit-and-run. The first incident also occurred on Austell Road.
Nelson has publicly expressed forgiveness toward Guy. “However, to come after me so much harder than they did him is a slap in the face,” she said.
She said that she didn’t think that the jury that convicted her “could relate to what I was going through. All of the jurors stated they’ve never ridden public transportation, and they’ve never really been in my shoes, so I think there was maybe not a jury of peers.”
This case has garnered national attention. Nelson was featured on the “Today” show on Monday. The national advocacy group Change.org posted a petition on its website that garnered over 116,000 signatures as of late Monday night.
According to CNN, the case also attracted attention from transportation advocates, who said Nelson was treated unfairly because transportation planners fail to take into account the needs of pedestrians when designing roads.
“Because she did as her fellow bus riders, who crossed at the same time and same place, and because she did what pedestrians will do every time — take the shortest reasonable path — she is guilty of vehicular homicide,” Transportation for America communications director David Goldberg wrote on the advocacy organization’s blog.