African American Woman Convicted Of Vehicular Homicide For Crossing The Street To Get Home

The blog Feministing has flagged a troubling story from Cobb County, Georgia. An Atlanta-area mother attempted to cross the street with her children from a bus stop to her home, and lost her son to a hit and run:

On April 10, she and her three children — Tyler, 9, A.J., 4, and Lauryn, 3 — went shopping because the next day was Nelson’s birthday. They had pizza, went to Wal-Mart and missed a bus, putting them an hour late getting home. Nelson, a student at Kennesaw State University, said she never expected to be out after dark, especially with the children.

When the Cobb County Transit bus finally stopped directly across from Somerpoint Apartments, night had fallen. She and the children crossed two lanes and waited with other passengers on the raised median for a break in traffic. The nearest crosswalks were three-tenths of a mile in either direction, and Nelson wanted to get her children inside as soon as possible. A.J. carried a plastic bag holding a goldfish they’d purchased.

“One girl ran across the street,” Nelson said. “For some odd reason, I guess he saw the girl and decided to run out behind her. I said, ‘Stop, A.J.,’ and he was in the middle of the street so I said keep going. That’s when we all got hit.

An all-white jury has convicted the woman, an African American, of vehicular homicide, even though she was not driving a car. Jerry Guy, the man who struck the boy with his car and fled the scene, pleaded guilty to hit-and-run, and has already served a six-month sentence. As reporter Elise Hitchcock notes, the woman “may serve more time than the driver who hit and killed her 4-year-old son.”

From news reports of the event, it appears the incident was an accident and the mother, who struggled to control her several children at the time, simply had difficulty ensuring that her son did not run into the middle of the road. Moreover, her jury, reportedly all white and from middle class backgrounds, were not her peers. It is unlikely they have had experience raising a family while in college on a low income, and without the luxury of a car to get around a suburban area. “The culture of criminalization, particularly of low-income people of color, has risen to such heights in this country,” laments Miriam from Feministing.


A judge ruled today that Nelson will not be facing any jailtime. She will instead get “12 months of probation and 40 hours of community service.”

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