By Maria Saporta
It is an incredible “man bites dog” story.
A Cobb County pedestrian’s four-year-old son is killed by a hit-and-run driver who admittedly had been drinking. But it’s the mother who gets charged and convicted with vehicular homicide.
The mother, Raquel Nelson, was guilty of walking across Austell Road from the bus stop to her apartment complex with her three children. She had no car, yet she is charged with vehicular homicide.
Sally Flocks, founder of PEDS, a pedestrian advocacy organization, had told me a couple of weeks ago that this case was coming up and that she was going to testify in support of the mother.
But if the mother was found guilty, Flocks said it could have far-reaching implications on not only the rights of pedestrians, but of their legal vulnerabilities.
I had not kept up with the legal developments. And then on Monday evening, David Goldberg — who had been a colleague at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution — sent me a story he had written on the case, suggesting that I might want to post it.
The story of convicting a grieving mother who was only guilty of trying to cross the street is almost unbelievable.
Yet Goldberg gives a detailed account of the case, the numerous pedestrian fatalities that occur in metro Atlanta each year, and then he rightfully questions who should be viewed as the true guilty parties. The highway designers? Traffic engineers? Transit planners? The land-use regulators? Or all of the above.
Obviously the driver killed a four-year old boy with his car. But the problem is systemic of the kind of city we have developed — one where the rights of cars trump the rights of pedestrians.
The fact that six jurors actually ruled that Nelson was guilty is evidence that we have lost our way; and Goldberg’s story helps us realize how out of whack our car-obsessed our society has become.