Raquel Nelson Cleared Of Homicide Charges Against Son

| by Jonathan Wolfe
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After three long years, Raquel Nelson’s homicide charges have been dropped.

In what would have been one of the worst cases of blaming the victim imaginable, Nelson was originally charged with the death of her son who was struck and killed by an impaired driver while he was crossing a Georgia street in 2010. 

How could the court possibly try to charge Nelson with her son’s death, you ask? The two were jaywalking when the boy was hit.

That’s right, state attorneys tried to argue that Nelson’s illegal crossing, not the drunk driver, was the reason for her son’s death. Nelson and her son were crossing the street from the bus stop to their apartment, and the nearest crosswalk was over 1/3 of a mile away.

As noted by Streets Blog, the case gained attention as a civil rights issue when Nelson’s legal team brought to light how sub-standard America’s road system is for pedestrians. Many urban road systems were designed only with cars in mind, but millions of urban residents whom cannot afford cars use the streets as walking routs.

David Goldberg of Transportation For America spoke extensively on Nelson’s trial and the need for more walker-friendly streets in American cities.

“That particular ordeal is over for Raquel Nelson. But the underlying crime persists – not just in Cobb County, GA, but also in cities and inner-ring suburbs all over the country. Areas built since the 1950s to be automobile dependent now are home to many lower-income families who don’t have access to cars. Nevertheless, the busy roads around them typically have not been retrofitted with safety measures for people on foot, bicycle or getting to and from the bus. The situation is getting exponentially worse as low-wage workers and recent immigrants move to these areas for their more affordable housing.

“Nelson was (initially) found guilty of killing her son by crossing the road in the “wrong” place. But what about the highway designers, traffic engineers, transit planners and land-use regulators who placed a bus stop across from apartments but made no provision whatsoever for a safe crossing? Those who ignored the fact that pedestrians always take the shortest possible route but somehow expected them to walk six-tenths of a mile out of their way to cross the street? Those who designed this road — which they allowed to be flanked by apartments and houses — for speeds of 50 mph and more? And those who designed the entire landscape to be hostile to people trying to get to work or carrying groceries despite having no access to a car? Are they not culpable?”

In an almost comical move, Nelson was still forced to plead guilty to jaywalking and pay a $200 fine.

Sources: Streets Blog, Transportation For America