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No Jail Time

July 28, 2011

As I sat in the courtroom yesterday, I couldn’t help but to feel a sense of bitterness and anger. You know the feeling of “why am I even here?” This was how I felt sitting in on Racquel Nelson’s sentencing hearing. I am sure you know of her. She is the young single mother of three who was being charged with vehicular homicide for jaywalking, which resulted in a convicted DUI driver striking and killing her 4 year-old son. She tried CPR. She frantically described her agony and desperation to the emergency dispatcher.
All these details were mentioned in the court. The solicitor decided to file charges against her and because she didn’t enter into a guilty plea bargain offered by the prosecutor’s office, she was now on trial facing 3 years in prison.

The outcome of her trial was guilty. I couldn’t believe the tragedy of this situation, so I attended the sentencing hearing. As I sat there I was thinking, “The tragedy isn’t just this sentencing, it is her being convicted… the tragedy is not just the conviction, it is that charges were filed against her in the first place!” Her loss was greater than these charges. The driver not only admitted to having a few drinks earlier and taking prescription medicine, he was also blind in his left eye; the same eye he needed to see this family crossing from the left side. In my opinion, a crosswalk would not have prevented this. Drivers don’t look for crosswalks, only pedestrians do!

The result was no jail time to be served. The judge even ordered a new trial for her. I feel this was a noble move but I couldn’t join the celebrations with everyone else. Yes, the victory is that she is not going to be separated from her other children to serve time in jail, but an enormous amount of damage was already done. Call me holding a grudge if you like. I’ve been called the “Grudge Gargon” before!

I once her someone say, “If someone stabs you in the back with a 6-inch blade and removes it 3 inches, should you be grateful?” I echo his sentiments in this case. Not because they didn’t further damage her, means the Cobb County, Georgia’s judicial system should be applauded.

Though I am grateful this mother served no time in jail, I am not going to say thank you to a justice system that still has the blade in her back. The blade is the conviction and even if it is fully removed through expunging her record or granting her a new trial that ends in an acquittal, the wound will remain forever. She was denied the proper grieving process after the loss of her son.

I hate to even mention the economic damage caused. Cobb County recently raised its millage rates in an attempt to balance its suffering budgets. Now we can see why! It is because of frivolously spending monies on the reckless enforcement of laws that could’ve been avoided with just a little compassion. We interpret laws. We carry compassion. The books don’t. With the recent release of the study showing that the wealth gap for Whites and Blacks has significantly broadened it only makes you wonder if idiotic individuals in our imperfect judicial are a leading cause to why Blacks often find themselves constantly using financial resources to defend themselves in court, all the while those whose wealth is growing rarely encounter the same financial and redemption setbacks.

I don’t know about you but it feels like the judicial system is the one jaywalking in this case, not the grieving mother.

Devin Robinson, Sr. is a business and economics professor and author of “Rebuilding the Black Infrastructure: Making America a Colorless Nation.”

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 28, 2011 1:32 am

    I totally agree 100%

  2. July 28, 2011 11:24 am

    It saddens me to see an unfortunate circumstance of a mother of 3 trying to get home from a long day baring the loss of her child, go through this unnecessary legal bull and not able to grieve for her child or even do proper consoling to the other two children that survived. All her energy had to been forcus on not going to jail, worrying about going to jail and leaving the other surviving siblings behind. I do agree Charges should not been bought against this woman.

    Yes she jaywalk. How many of us can truly say we have not jaywalk, ( getting out of a cab, coming out of a office for lunch, or running across the street from a parking deck running late for work or presentation). We didn’t get hit, we were lucky. That day for Ms. Nelson, she was not lucky.

    The Law should had shown compassion in this case when it was clearly a mistake on Neslon part and not any form or child neglect or intent of endangerment. I fought tears in court when character witnesses spoke about this mother. I fought tears hearing how the defender told the court of the 911 call. No, that what I heard in court did not speak of a non-caring mother. It spoke of a mother who realize her mistake immediately and tried with all her breath to help her dying son. I fight tears now thinking about it and remembering the words of the defendant as he repeated her words, ” Somebody please help Me”. My God I felt every syllable.

    I am glad the outcome was in her favor to go home with her children. A greater outcome like Mr. Robinson said would had been her not being charge at all. I used to live in Cobb county and witness with my own family and friends that compassion of the law sometimes will depend on the color of your skin. Did they do this is this case? I was not there, but circumstances of this situation says maybe.

    Great Article Mr. Robinson!

  3. August 2, 2011 12:45 am

    This very sad and just think how many times this DUI driver hit the wheels a day. As far as I’m concern, the Justice System is full of Cramp! It has been this way for many years now. I truly think that many Leaders in our Justice System should be sat on the curb, and replaced by some real touch Love Leaders. Be careful what you do in the streets now days, you just might get life because who you are and the Love of $$$.

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