Saturday, July 23, 2011

Injustice in Georgia

Some examples of the American justice system in action can only leave you outraged. As in the local Koua Fong Lee case, the sentence of Raquel Nelson of Marietta, Georgia, begs to be overturned. And to lead to structural changes in how cities deal with pedestrians.

Nelson and her three young children had just arrived by bus across the street from their apartment building. (Excellent summary on Grist.) "Street" is a bit of a misnomer, though -- it's a suburban, four-lane, divided road built for cars, without a thought to pedestrians (Google map here).

Google satellite view of Austell Road intersection with Austell Circle
The bus stop is at the south end of Austell Circle -- there's an intersection on one side of the larger road, but no painted crosswalk. It's three-tenths of a mile to the nearest crosswalk (and three-tenths back).

Nelson, her kids, and several other adults who had been on the bus crossed the north side of the street to the median safely. When one of the other adults attempted to cross the south side of the street, Nelson's 4-year-old followed. She tried to retrieve him and both she and the child were hit by a man named Jerry Guy, who fled the scene. (Guy had two earlier hit-and-runs and had painkillers and a few drinks in him). The child later died.

Instead of apologizing and putting in a light and a crosswalk, the city responded by indicting Nelson for criminal vehicular homicide of her own child. Despite the fact that there was no underlying jaywalking involved. She was just found guilty (by an all-white, middle-class jury; Nelson is black) and could be sentenced to up to 36 months on July 26. The driver was tried earlier and has already been released after serving just 6 months.

I know it's not a lot, but you can sign a petition urging that her sentence be overturned.

According to the petition site, Marietta, Georgia, is the 11th most dangerous place for pedestrians in the U.S. Here's a map of all the pedestrian fatalities in the area.

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