My Latest at Huffington Post . . .

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

 . . . is on the jaywalking prosecution of Raquel Nelson.

One interesting tidbit I found while reporting the article: The hit-and-run happened on April 10th. But Nelson wasn’t charged until May 17th, three days after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran a big “Jaywalkers Are Courting Death” article, which mentioned her case, and that she hadn’t been charged.


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24 Responses to “My Latest at Huffington Post . . .”

  1. #1 |  M | 

    I was just reading this on Metafilter:

    And your HuffPo most popular sidebar is all sexy. It’s as if you’re the editorial writer for TMZ. Weird.

  2. #2 |  Nick T. | 

    Great column. Very persuasive.Heartbreaking story really. That poor poor woman. Anyway to help her out?

    I think it might be helpful to point out that this charges are *legally* unjust as well, in that she can only be charged if her actions were the proximate cause of the child’s death, and they planely were not. That’s because a) the presence of a crosswalk would not have stopped the drunk driver, and b) the jaywalking and the child darting out into the street are two separate and distinct incidents. Her “crime” of jaywalking had already been completed and all parties were still safe.

    Of course one could construct a causal chain as to how things could have been different in whatever manner, but criminal law is meant to be applied only to direct and forseeable outcomes of reckless (and even intentional) actions.

  3. #3 |  Nick T. | 

    Whoops “plainly”

  4. #4 |  ChicagoSucks | 

    So Radley, how does it feel writing for HuffPo? I imagine it must be refreshing being able to reach a new audience.

  5. #5 |  Eric | 

    I’d be interested in contributing to an appeals fund.

  6. #6 |  johnl | 

    Lenore Skenazy also wrote about this the other day.

  7. #7 |  Lucy | 

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution does seem to leave a path of human misery in its wake sometimes.

  8. #8 |  Maria | 

    Her case is sick. It’s sick that the guy who was driving, a multiple offender got out of jail and served less time then she is threatened with.

    Atlanta DTis an ok pedestrian zone . It’s the burbs and smaller satellite cities like Marietta that are a nightmare. There’s some sections in this mish mash urban sprawl where you have no choice but to jay walk. There can be no sidewalks, no marked crosswalks, no pedestrian bridges, or even islands, not even those flashing lights that the pedestrian gets to press to signal they want to cross.

    You just run across multiple lanes, pause in the dual lane, hope no one hits you then run across some more traffic. Or of course, walk half a mile to a mile to the nearest intersection, maybe there’s a crosswalk. Because everyone knows that after a hard days work or lugging groceries home with your kids in tow, you have the energy to do that.

    It’s probably a coincidence it’s usually the busiest roads in the poorest, immigrant filled neighborhoods that are the least pedestrian friendly.

    Even our nice middle class neighborhood, which is nearly 50 years old just got a sidewalk on one of the main streets.

  9. #9 |  Buddy Hinton | 

    Maria Antonia?

  10. #10 |  Chris in AL | 

    I think the only way DAs are going to stop prosecuting charges like this is when juries consistently show they will not convict.

    We talk constantly about the powers we have lost. But the greatest power we have, we almost never use.

  11. #11 |  Julian | 

    Off subject, but check out This Story out of Lufkin, Texas. It’s about a mentally handicap man getting beaten up in his own home by cops called in by a neighbor who reported a B&E at the premises. Because he locked himself in the bathroom to get away, they charged him with resisting arrest, for which the jury convicted him.

  12. #12 |  Julian | 

    Nevermind, on scrolling further down the main page I see it’s been covered.

  13. #13 |  mme6546 |

    looks like exculpatory evidence was present, but hey….we all know she’s guilty so who gives a shit….

    :: sigh ::

  14. #14 |  JRL | 

    I’m tired of the anti-jaywalking hysteria in the US. In the UK (and plenty of other places I guess), jaywalking is the normal method of crossing the street, and it seems rather easy to do without obstructing traffic or endangering anyone.

  15. #15 |  Kwix | 

    I see that commentators on HuffPo are getting outraged at the wrong things.
    That this woman is facing 36 months in jail for jaywalking seems to not be weighing on anyone’s mind. Rather “poor city planning”, “class war” and “damned breeders” seems to be the order of the day.

    Talk about missing the point.

    Missing you at Reason but keep up the good work.

  16. #16 |  Highway | 

    The thing people aren’t getting at HuffPo is that *there is no such thing as jaywalking in Georgia* (and probably a lot of other places). All there is is ‘failure to yield’ on the part of pedestrians if they get hit, basically a way to reduce the liability of the drivers if they do happen to hit someone when they’re in the road.

    The tragedy is that a child got killed, and the ludicrousness is that the non-driver mother was then charged and convicted of total crap.

  17. #17 |  freebob | 

    I’ve read some of the comments at HuffPo, I can only take so much, almost all positive, except one idiot:
    “She was convicted of misdemeanors, not felonies. That hardly seems an overreaction to negligence that cost a child’s life. Whenever a child is seriously injured or killed there should be zero tolerance or “discretion” by law enforcement.”
    Unfortunately that’s the predominate attitude of prosecutors, a child was involved, throw reason out the window. I’ve read somewhere that sociopaths use children to gain sympathy/trust so they can take advantage of people, that rings true when it comes to the Nancy Grace crowd.

  18. #18 |  Curt | 

    I’m not defending the prosecution… it’s just adding insult to injury. It certainly isn’t going to provide a deterrent to keep people from doing this in the future.

    But, a little perspective for some. People are talking about jaywalking as a safe way to cross streets. That’s true in the city where its a short dash, often one-way traffic, and traffic is doing 25mph or so. Austell Rd is two lanes each way with a turn lane in the middle and cars are doing 55+. The AJC mentions another similar case on South Cobb which is wider and faster.

    As far as city planning, people talk about pedestrian bridges. There’s way too many bus stops on high speed roads to bridge them all. In places where it was recognized as a problem and bridges were installed, I still see people running across the road; underneath the bridge. In this case, I think there is definitely some planning failure in having a busstop directly across the street from those apartment. Up and down the street (at intersections/crosswalks) would’ve made better sense.

    Crappy situation and I don’t know the answer. I was about to say that ruining this woman’s life isn’t the answer… but really, it’s already ruined by the loss of her child. Georgia is just kicking her while she’s down.

  19. #19 |  JRL | 

    There’s a photo of where she crossed here:

    Honestly, that doesn’t look that difficult for an able-bodied person to cross to me. Would be good to have pedestrian crossings for any times when the gaps in traffic aren’t large enough, though.

  20. #20 |  Griffin3 | 

    Pfft. Google “killed in crosswalk” -> About 1,150,000 results.

    Here in Perdido Key, western tip of Florida, they put in crosswalks on the beach road, nicely painted and signed. A tourist was killed within six weeks. Whoa, there, let’s add some flashing lights. Another tourist was killed 4 weeks later. Both crosswalks on the Florida side were removed, the one on the Alabama side converted to a full stoplight.

    Poor, silly tourists. What were they from, California, to think cars would actually yield at a crosswalk?


  21. #21 |  Highway | 

    Crosswalks have no physical properties that protect pedestrians. The only thing the crosswalk does is mark an area where the burden of yielding right-of-way is shifted from the cars to pedestrians. And that is only effective if it’s a point where cars can actually yield, like at an intersection.

    I think a lot of the causality for this accident goes to the transit administration, because they located a bus stop mid-block in the far side of the road. Now, they’ve probably been prodded to put it there by the people who live there who, for better or for worse, don’t want to walk 1/4 to 1/2-mile home from the intersection where it would have been safer to cross.

    And Curt, I think that crossing streets like that generally is ‘safe’. Humans have very good eyesight for things in that scale, and a long, straight stretch of road with shielding medians is about as safe as you could get. The speed of the road is mitigated by the long sight lines and that everyone is going nearly the same speed. People do it all the time at that particular location, and it has not been mentioned in any article that I’ve noticed that there’s a high accident history there. Usually if there were, articles tend to repeat that. This was a case where there was an acceptable gap for some people, but that this mother didn’t think was acceptable, so she waited. But her child got confused and tried to go in that gap. It’s an object lesson on why children should be supervised when crossing roads, but really this is just malicious prosecution.

  22. #22 |  Irving Washington | 

    Elements of the offense of jaywalking in Georgia:

    1. Walking across the street
    2. While poor and black

  23. #23 |  Curt | 

    @ Highway…

    Agree that crosswalks have no protection… the protection comes from being located at an intersection with a stoplight. I don’t doubt that people can make it across safely, but a lot of them take big risks. I used to play softball just down the road from there and I’ve definitely had to slam on the brakes to avoid crossers before.

    #19 JRL has a pretty good link that shows the history of the area. If you scroll down on the page, it has a link to map of fatalities. Pretty scary.

    Main point is that I agree with you about the location of the bus stop. It’s just inviting trouble.

  24. #24 |  Highway | 

    Curt, a minor point: The protection is not as much the stoplight as the property of the intersection to apportion right of way. Whether that be by traffic signal, stop signs, yield signs, or just the nature of a recognized intersection with the possibility of conflict. The crosswalk helps to signify priority: pedestrian within the crosswalk legally must be yielded to. But it’s at a location where drivers are looking to determine who has right of way.