Cobb solicitor agrees to downgraded plea for mom whose jaywalking led to death of son
5:52 pm, June 13th, 2013 by Katheryn Hayes Tucker
A case that drew international news coverage and criticism for having ever gone to trial the first time has now been resolved without a second trial in a way that both prosecutor and defense attorney said it should have been handled from the start.
After waiting two years for the conclusion of unsuccessful appeals of her conviction for vehicular homicide and reckless conduct in the death of her 4-year-old son hit by a drunken driver, Raquel Nelson has pleaded no contest to jay walking and paid a $200 fine in Cobb County State Court.
“This was a case that should not have been brought, or should have been handled in a very cursory manner as for a traffic offense like jay walking and not with the threat of jail time looming,” said Nelson’s pro bono defense attorney Steve Sadow.
Sadow took over Nelson’s defense after she was convicted in July 2011 of vehicular homicide and reckless conduct because she crossed the street from a bus stop to her apartment with her children and other passengers instead of walking nearly half a mile to a traffic light. Her son was killed by a speeding drunk driver.
“We had always offered a plea similar to the one she entered today where we would dismiss the VH charge,” Cobb County Solicitor General Barry Morgan said by email in response to an inquiry. But, he added, “She wouldn’t accept any plea at all before. She didn’t think she had any responsibility at all. We thought then and now that this was an appropriate resolution. She finally accepted the responsibility for what she had done, crossing the road not in a cross walk.”
Sadow said the offer presented before he became involved always involved probation, community service and fines more in line with a vehicular homicide charge than a jay walking charge. What’s important about the today’s plea – the product of an agreement reached just a few weeks ago – was that Nelson will have no probation and therefore no lingering reminders of her son’s tragic death.
“When I got involved, my priority was to make sure she did not have responsibility for vehicular homicide or reckless conduct dealing with the death of her son,” Sadow said. “The way I explained it to her was, every time we walk back into a courtroom, you have to relive this entire situation. It’s not in your interest to do that when you can put an absolute end to it by pleading no contest to jay walking and paying a $200 fine.”