GA Mom Spared Prison In Jaywalking Death Of Her Son, But Where’s the Justice?

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.

Right. Broke.

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.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Denene Millner

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.


  1. Well said! This whole thing is damn ridiculous! Where TH? was her “jury of peers”? People said to leave the “race card” out of it when it comes to #CaseyAnthony, but race and convictions go hand in hand. Even more sick, I read this guy had prior hit-and-run charges as well and still was seen as more innocent than the single Black “welfare” mom. That judge and jury saw what they wanted to see and didn’t pay a bit of attention to anything going on around them. I’m relieved that she won’t be in prison, but beyond upset that she is on probation…wth? For what!??? The whole thing is flat out stupid…meanwhile Casey cops to being “involved” in her daughters death and this woman’s just trying to make it home without getting hit. I mean, wth is a bus dropping her off where there’s no crosswalk and busy highway? She needs to sue the city…ridiculous!!!

  2. I never even thought of comparing this case to Casey Anthony’s…and the comparison makes it even more crazy that Nelson was convicted. Where IS the justice?

  3. Denene, if we ever get to meet – you are gonna get one huge hug – b/c this is not the only time you wrote exactly what I was thinking. Thanks Sis!!!

  4. Wait, what? Our justice system is not blind to color? Well, knock me over with a feather. I’ve been reading “The New Jim Crow” so I’m already worked up.

  5. I found this whole case very distressing. The prosecutor had a choice and shouldn’t have brought charges against this mom. It wasn’t in the best interest of the child who died, the remaining children or the community. It accomplished nothing from the standpoint of making an example or protecting children in the future. On second thought, maybe the outrage will make this prosecutor stop and think in a similar situation in the future. If I lived in his district, I’d be doing everything I could to get a different prosecutor elected next time. BTW, I shared your post on Google +. I don’t have a lot of followers there yet, but it’s important to expand this conversation to others if we want to make a difference in the future.

  6. I absolutely agree with everything you are saying about this case. It’s a travesty that this mother had to be put through a trial for jaywalking when her child was killed by a drunk driver.

    I don’t think, however, that comparing the outcome of this case to Casey Anthony really get us anywhere. The big difference between this case and Casey’s case is that this case should have never even been prosecuted while Casey’s case should have. The fact that Casey got off and this woman did not has more to do with the evidence presented – this case, on the law, is pretty cut and dry, even if it is heartless and cruel. Casey’s case was circumstantial and difficult to prove, even if we all believe she had something to do with it.

    • Very well put!

    • I’m not comparing the merits of the prosecution in the Anthony case vs. this one; I’m simply pointing out the irony of a woman accused of murdering her child, burying her and partying until her own mother drops dime getting off scott free while another mother, whose child died at the hands of someone else and clearly is suffering emotionally and mentally for a mistake, is now a convicted felon.

  7. Oh my gosh! What an amazing article! You are so right- 110%. I just don’t know what to say.

  8. In Atlanta pedestrians are treated like loathesome pests. They don’t get the right of way, they don’t have walkways or sidewalks provided for them, and they have to walk on roads that are like highways often. This is shameful. The prosecutor is not only insensitive to this woman, the whole area is insensitive to pedestrians. I rode public transportation for 9 of the 20 years that Iived in GA, and I am speaking from experience.

  9. Maya-and-Sean's Mom

    Amen! Amen! Amen! Thank you for always telling it like it is.
    I will certainly place this on the top of my list of “required reading” assignments for my college English comp students. Continue to inform and educate.

  10. THANK YOU, Denene…that case was bullsh*t. I think the uproar needs to continue, to get the killer MORE jail time and revoke his license forever. I can’t see Ms. Nelson being satisfied with his sentence, given her child will NEVER come home with her again. I also appreciate your point about a jury who can neither relate to her as a woman of color or as a low-income, carless mother. She did not get a fair trial. Your breakdown of the events also show me that she wasn’t recklessly jaywalking, she was going after her kids in the street–and what parent can say they’ve NEVER had to do that or consider what they’d do if it happened?

  11. I don’t think this case was particularly fair, especially when compared to the Casey Anthony case. That being said, my bus drops me off probably about the same distance from a crosswalk. I often choose to jay walk in favor of getting home sooner. But that’s me, by myself. I would never jay walk with my future children in tow.

    • Never say never. You have no idea how exhausting being the mother of three small, energetic children can be. She was a university student on top of being a mother. I hope this did not deter her from continuing her education and improving her family’s future.

  12. Denene, you hit the nail on the head with this one. I canNOT believe how this all went down. It’s such a disgusting shame. I can’t. I’m done. Jesus, take the wheel b/c this is ridiculous.

  13. What a horrible story. The poor are always shipped off to war or prison.

  14. Kia Morgan Smith

    *Standing ovation* *Amen* *Hallelujah* *High-Five* From a mom of FIVE kids, Well-said D, Well-said!

  15. I agree w. everything but the Casey Anthony comparison.

  16. This is absolutely absurd that it even made it to court, much less ended in a conviction. I wish this blog post had not turned it into a racial thing. It’s an injustice no matter what organization agrees with that or what color anyone’s skin is. Injustice happens to a lot of people (of varying color) but I do believe a common denominator is poverty. They can’t afford to properly defend themselves and in some ways are even targeted by law enforcement even when they have not broken any laws. I drive a stone-age dinosaur of a car and I get pulled over all the time – FOR NOTHING – and then let go after the cop suspiciously looks my family and me over. Cops jump behind me as if I have hundred dollar bills streaming out of my tailpipe, in high traffic areas, because they are hoping my tag is expired. Assholes. It’s sad that the “system” got away with nailing this lady to a cross while the drunk got off practically scott free (just going by what you have reported here). I hope she does request a retrial because A – no punishment is necessary, and B that needs to be removed from her record or its almost a guarantee she will never be able to get another job. If GA is so concerned about people being welfare, why shoot themselves in the foot by creating situations to FORCE people into a needy position, such as a felony murder conviction = no job, ever.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.