Our friends at HLN are discussing a story out of Marietta, Georgia about a mother who is facing two years of jail time after her 4-year-old son was hit and killed by a drunk driver while she and her children were crossing the street. Now, hopefully you're asking yourself how it is that the mother of a boy slain after being hit by a drunk driver while crossing the street could be facing jail time at all, and the answer is because "she chose to cross the street at the bus stop, instead of the nearest crosswalk, three-tenths of a mile away.
In July 2011, the mom in question, Raquel Nelson (pictured left with her now deceased son), "was convicted of … three misdemeanors: second-degree homicide by a vehicle, crossing roadway elsewhere than a crosswalk and reckless conduct." She received a sentence of one year probation and 40 hours of community service, but has chosen a retrial which begins today. According to HLN, "She now faces up to two years behind bars."
The driver, Jerry Guy, "fled the scene after the accident but later admitted being involved, according to CNN affiliate WXIA-TV. He was sentenced to five years in prison but served only six months. He is serving the remainder of the sentence on probation," CNN noted in July of 2011. Nelson's son A.J. died in April 2010. This woman has been on trial for three years while grieving for the death of her son in what was an accident caused by a drunk driver. If Nelson were to be ticketed at all, to be made an example of (because she's a black single mother and American society loves to make an example of black single mothers), the only charge that seems reasonable in this case is "crossing roadway elsewhere than a crosswalk." There's no doubt that pedestrians need to obey rules and watch out for their own safety, but as Nelson's attorney, David Savoy, suggested, "the white stripes of a crosswalk are not impenetrable walls of steel that could have prevented a driver from striking someone crossing the street."
Related: 12 unexpected ways life changes after kids
The idea that Nelson could be convicted of second-degree homicide by a vehicle makes me truly nauseous, because that is passing the buck from Guy to Nelson. Guy was driving the car, Guy was drunk, Guy struck the child and Guy fled. These charges are so, so sadly reflective of America's victim-blaming culture. A child runs out into the street while crossing from the bus stop and is struck by a car and killed. How does it possibly serve anyone to put his mother in jail? She has two other children to take care of.
It's hard to imagine a white mother facing trial in the same circumstance. Then again, it's also hard for some to imagine a white mother in the same circumstance, unless she's poor, and then she too is to be made an example of. Because we're taught in America that if we're not wealthy and successful it's our "fault," and that everyone should want to be an over-scheduled, workaholic consumer, because to be otherwise is unpatriotic. It's un-American to stop feeding the machine. And if you're not feeding it, you're milking it, and that makes you scum. It's immature black-and-white thinking (in more than one sense), but that's what we're best at.
This story reminded me immediately of one I read the other day about the Anonymous hacker that helped convict the Steubenville rapists. Mother Jones reported, "If convicted of hacking-related crimes, [he] could face up to 10 years behind bars-far more than the one- and two-year sentences doled out to the Steubenville rapists." They added, "Defending himself could end up costing a fortune." Precisely. America's justice system favors the wealthy and powerful and blames those whose are already systematically oppressed. For how much longer can we sit idly by and watch as those in power in this country ignore the real problems of real people in favor of criminalizing the poverty and oppression they've created?
The message Nelson's case sends is: You're black and single with three kids and you don't even know how to cross the street you pathetic worthless excuse for a human being. Now go to jail and think about how you killed your kid. Swallow the shame and the deflected blame. That's what you get for needing to take the bus I pay for with my taxes.
When the lesson should be: Pedestrians have the right of way and drunk driving is illegal, not to mention unethical. Fleeing the scene of a crime is heinous. This poor mother, forced to take the bus on a four lane highway, lost her son. Perhaps we should provide better options for families who need to travel.
Think about the difference and decide which one is right. Put yourself in her shoes. Just think about it.
Thanks for the update. I thought it was ridicules when I read it. The nearest crosswalk was over a ¼ of a mile away and that was just to cross the street. Almost everyone J-Walks under certain circumstances. The round trip if she had walked to the crosswalk, would have been 2/3 of a mile just to get back from where she started from versus walking 50’.
“ If Nelson were to be ticketed at all, to be made an example of (because she's a black single mother and American society loves to make an example of black single mothers),”…….. Nelson's attorney, David Savoy,
This bothers the hell out of me. Who in the hell can make a connection to this woman and vehicular homicide? This is part of whats wrong with the judicial system. It ought to be a crime for trying to bring this rag of a case into court....
Get a load of this one-
Spring Lake Heights, NJ (Asbury Park Press) -- Though Dan Langley had a heart attack while driving, that did not stop a police officer from giving him three traffic tickets.
A little more than a week after the April 1 heart attack -- which led to a minor traffic accident -- Langley, a 20-year-old Wall, New Jersey resident, received the tickets in the mail. When he went to the Spring Lake Heights Municipal Court to fight them, he and his family figured a doctor's note would help convince the local prosecutor or judge to dismiss the summonses.
"Please forgive Mr. Langley's tickets due to his unfortunate experience of having a heart attack seconds prior to his car accident," stated the note from Dr. Harold Cotler of Wall.
The result? Two tickets were dismissed, but a third was only downgraded... to a $133 fine.
"What's the charge? Criminal cardiac arrest?" his father, Chris Langley said in a later interview.
Langley pleaded guilty May 16 to the lesser violation of obstructing the passage of vehicles and paid the fine, but he and his parents say they do not understand why the tickets were written and why they were not all tossed out in court.
"We feel the system is just completely insensitive to something of this nature," Chris Langley said. "How can you charge anyone with anything? Something's wrong here, and it needs to be fixed. ... This could have been any family. This could have been anyone's son."
Neither the municipal prosecutor, Colin Quinn, nor police could be reached for comment.
'It saved his life'
Cotler said physicians believe Dan Langley's heart attack began before the accident.
Langley was headed to a friend's home in Spring Lake Heights on April 1. Around 5:45 p.m., near the intersection of Route 71 and Warren Avenue, his car hit a Toyota at a traffic light, his family said.
Langley does not remember the accident, but he and his parents have been told that he got out of his car, walked toward the front of the vehicle, vomited and collapsed.
Chris Langley said he and his wife, Noreen, believe the accident -- and a fast-acting police sergeant -- helped save their son's life.
The accident quickly brought emergency services to the scene. Sgt. Andrew O'Neillbegan CPR.
"We feel fortunate because the accident attracted immediate attention. We feel it saved his life," said Dan's father. "We're grateful to Sgt. O'Neill of Spring Lake Heights, because of his efforts. He started CPR. He's humble; he says it was a group effort. ... I can't say enough about the sergeant. He was at the scene. He went to hospital in ambulance with him."
Emergency room doctors at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune quickly cooled Dan Langley's body to stave off brain damage from the heart attack, a procedure Langley's doctor said helped save his life.
Langley's doctor agrees that the quick actions of the police sergeant, the emergency workers who quickly transported him to Jersey Shore University Medical Center and doctors at the Neptune hospital who cooled his body helped save his life and saved his brain function.
"He was very lucky that he was seen by a fast-thinking police officer and went to a really great hospital," said Cotler, who is also the vice chairman of the department of family practice at Jersey Shore.
Tickets in the mail
O'Neill did not write the tickets. They were issued later by another officer, Raymond Kwiatkowski, the family said.
The tickets arrived in the mail eight days later, on the same day a defibrillator was implanted in the young man's chest, the family said.
Chris Langley said he spoke with police after the tickets arrived in the mail, and they indicated they would talk to the municipal prosecutor about dismissing them.
In Municipal Court, Dan Langley initially pleaded not guilty, and two of the tickets - tailgating and unsafe operation of a motor vehicle - were dismissed.
But authorities would only agree to downgrade the third - from reckless driving to obstructing the passage of other vehicles, the Langleys said.
Unlike the reckless driving ticket, which carries five points and a fine of up to $200, the downgraded offense came with no points and a $133 fine.
No one was injured from the accident, and the other driver did not come to the court hearing, the family said.
Dan "had to plead guilty," said his mother, Noreen. "What choice did he have?"
He paid the $133 fine.
Not back to normal
Dan Langley is the youngest of six children. There is no history of similar heart problems in the family, and doctors still are not sure what caused his cardiac arrest, his parents said. He spent 10 days in the hospital.
At the time, Dan Langley, who plays several musical instruments, was working two jobs and finishing his last semester as a mechanical engineering student at Brookdale Community College in the Lincroft section of Middletown. He was set to start attending Rutgers University in the fall.
But because of his medical condition he had to withdraw from school and cannot return to work. He cannot play contact sports. He cannot swim in the pool that has been in the family's backyard since he was a baby. He cannot mow the lawn or use the edger.
"The doctor said he will be back to a normal life in a more reasonable time, but not now," Chris Langley said.
I'm all for making the guy responsible for reparations to whatever got tore up in the wreck, but good grief! This cop should be ticketed for being an a-hole. I hope he gets some tickets if he has a heart attack.
I'm trying to figure out, precisely, how the original story is related only to black/poor women. Public transportation is used by all types of people, not just black or poor, as truly poor people often can't afford it. Who cares what color the woman is? She lost a child due to a drunk driver and is being blamed for it..... that's all we need to know. This could happen to any one of us.
"It's immature black-and-white thinking (in more than one sense), but that's what we're best at." The author makes it black and white thinking....
As to who is to blame? The driver of the car, certainly, because, as noted by the attorney, "the white stripes of a crosswalk are not impenetrable walls of steel that could have prevented a driver from striking someone crossing the street."
Maybe the bus company needs to change their stop, so it's at/near the crosswalk.......?? Would that have made a difference in this case? Doubtful.....
I have no idea why the “Race Card” was Played. The comment doesn’t insult or offend me because it is so Ridiculous. As long as we have people like this that will turn everything into a Race Issue, we will never move forward.
I agree that to mention it does seem to be overusing the truth of racial bias. It is true that all people are often treated unjustly, not just African-Americans and the perception of being a victim actually diminishes the power of a person.
Having said that, it is often true that Black people, especially poor black people get more than their share of injustice in our country.
I get it and in the times I was called racist (yes, me, lol) my response was "How dare you trivialize racism with this self serving accusation?"
That is how I feel. Racism is alive and it is dead wrong, but to be calling out anyone who hurts you as a racist not only diminishes the seriousness of the real thing, it diminishes the power and strength of the accuser.
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