Please believe, just like every other state in the union, Georgia is broke to the tune of $1.3 billion, according to some estimates. And those of us who live here can feel it. In the last three years, the state has shrunk its budget by 15 percent. Entire public transportation systems in, ahem, certain communities have been shut down. Cuts to higher education, Medicaid and services for the elderly are bringing the pain to Georgians who can ill afford them. Courts are closing their doors sporadically, and court personnel are asking vendors to donate pens and pencils. Hell, I finally just finished buying Lila's school supplies; the list, which was practically as long as my doggone arm, includes color copy paper. Copy paper, people. Because my kid's school can't afford the paper it takes to photocopy classwork for the kids and notes for us parents.
Which brings me to this foolishness, out in Marietta, GA, where the court system hadn't a problem spending a gang of cash prosecuting the mother of a 4-year-old child killed in a hit-and-run by a twice-convicted drunk driver. Yes, you read that right: The mother of the child who was killed by a convicted drunk driver, who is half-blind in one eye and admitted to drinking and taking prescription drugs before climbing behind his murder machine and hitting the mother and two of her three children killing one was prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law over her son's death.
Wait for it
Raquel Nelson was convicted of homicide by vehicle and reckless conduct and faced a three-year jail sentence six times the six-month sentence Jerry Guy served for running over Nelson's son, A.J., in the Spring of 2010. Prosecutors said she should have crossed at the crosswalk, and an all-white jury of suburbanites who've never ridden public transportation agreed and convicted her.
Here's what went down: The public bus Nelson was riding with her kids dropped her off at a bus stop just across the way from her apartment building, but more than a quarter mile from the nearest crosswalk. It was night time, and Nelson, a single mom with three kids under age six hanging on her body, was desperate to get her babies in the house out of the dark. Rather than walk three-tenths of a mile to the crosswalk and then double back another three-tenths of a mile to get to her building, Nelson, like all of the other bus riders who got off at her stop, crossed the busy highway where the bus stop was. Her babies in tow, she made it across the first lanes to a divider on the busy highway and was waiting for traffic to pass before she tried to clear the second two lanes when her daughter darted into the street, followed by A.J., the 4-year-old. Just as Nelson was trying to get her babies out of the street, Guy hit the three of them. Nelson's 6-year-old daughter was unharmed.
And even as this mother grieved for her baby, she was slapped with and convicted of charges that would have torn her away from her two surviving children, by a bunch of people who couldn't identify with the calculations a mother with three babies makes when faced with walking more than a half mile in the dark to get her children home.
The good news is that yesterday, a judge had mercy on Nelson, giving her a year's probation, 40 hours of community service and, if she wants one, a new trial. The leniency came after a collective uproar over the persecution of this mother was heard around the state: more than 125,000 people signed an online petition seeking mercy for Nelson, and the NAACP called the case against the single black mother a grave miscarriage of justice. The judge's office also was flooded with letters and emails from around the country in support of Nelson.
Here's my thing: We had a chick whooping and hollering and getting drunk and partying while her murdered child lay buried in the dirt a few miles from her house, and she's off somewhere probably getting bigger boobs and a nose job while she writes her tell-all and reads over her reality show contract because a jury couldn't bring itself to convict her.
But a mother trying to get her babies in out of the dark after a long day and a long bus ride gets taken to the hole by a state with a $1.3 billion budget deficit. Because it's got the cash just lying around for this kind of thing. You know, sending single black moms with little means to the clink for being, well, single black moms with little means. I'll bet you had this mother left the gate open to her fancy pool and one of her children drowned or accidentally hit her child with her BMW in the cul-de-sac, prosecutors wouldn't have had a problem understanding that that action was a mistake one in which the death of a child is agony and debt enough for a mother.
The key word here is mother. Nelson is a mom who loves her children. A grieving mother who lost one of the most precious gifts any one woman could ever hope for: a child. She did not deserve to be treated like some animal without feeling or heart who didn't deserve or merit the understanding afforded a mother who made a mistake and is paying dearly for it.
Glad to see my taxpayer dollars at work, Georgia. *Insert image of Denene sloooow clapping* Keep up the awesome work.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.