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For Raquel Nelson, Justice Still Elusive

8:15 AM PDT on July 28, 2011

Everyone was relieved to hear earlier this week that Raquel Nelson was spared jail time in the trial that sparked national outrage. But that doesn't mean justice has been done for the mother who was convicted of vehicular homicide after a hit-and-run driver killed her 4-year-old son. All for simply attempting to navigate a busy, suburban arterial on foot.

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Nelson has accepted Judge Kathryn Tanksley's alternative of a re-trial, rather than 12 months probation, following her conviction by an all-white jury. But the 30-year-old mother of two should never have faced charges, Stephen Lee Davis at Transportation for America says.

Justice won't be served until Nelson is pardoned and road conditions are improved to prevent others from experiencing the same tragic fate, Davis writes:

A grieving mother who didn’t even own a car should never have been charged with vehicular homicide in the first place. We would hope the Georgia board of pardons and paroles and/or Governor Nathan Deal would see fit to spare her the agony of a retrial and simply absolve her — and by extension the other pedestrians and bus riders who are put in a similarly dangerous situation every day.

Yesterday we called the director of the Cobb County department of transportation, Faye DiMassimo, to ask whether there were plans to review the situation. She replied that she could not talk about that bus stop or any other because the county attorney had warned of the “possibility of pending litigation.”

The county appears to be in a Catch-22 at this point: To fix this, or similar, problems would be a tacit acknowledgment of negligence in the placement of the bus stop and the lack of a safe crossing. To leave conditions as they are would be to invite further tragedy and the possibility of yet more “pending litigation.”

Cobb County has punted on this issue before in the remarkably similar 2008 case of Altamesa Walker. "That tragic case should have triggered a review of bus stop placement and the provisions for safe crossings," Davis said. "But the Nelson case is vivid evidence that did not happen."

T4A is asking readers to sign an online petition urging Nelson's pardon.

Elsewhere on the Network today: EcoVelo reports on a study that found people who commute one hour by car need to make 40 percent more than those who walk or bike to work in order to have the same sense of well-being. TBD on Foot steps back to 1994 to take stock of American bike commuting. And the Bike League Blog shares the story of how bike friendliness boosted one business's bottom line.

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