Cobb mom opts for new trial in fatal jaywalking case
Raquel Nelson
By Marcus K. Garner

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
9:16 p.m. Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Cobb County mother convicted for jaywalking in connection with her 4-year-old son’s death has opted to retry the case.

Raquel Nelson’s son was killed last year by a hit-and-run driver as she crossed Austell Road with him and her two other young children nearly a half-mile from a crosswalk.

A jury found Nelson guilty of secondary vehicular homicide, crossing roadway elsewhere than at crosswalk and reckless conduct in the April 10, 2010 incident, amid a national outcry for her to be exonerated.

But when sentenced last week to a year of probation, a judge offered Nelson an alternative – a chance to retry her case.

“Ms. Nelson has decided to proceed with a retrial,” her new attorney, Steve Sadow, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday evening, following an email announcing his retainer.

“I have taken the case pro bono because her prosecution is morally wrong and unjustified.”

Sadow is best known for representing Atlanta rapper Clifford “T.I.” Harris in his defense against illegal gun charges in 2008.

Nelson was returning home with her children – she also has daughters, then ages 2 and 9 – and was on the median when A.J. pulled away from his mother and ran to cross the street to follow his older sister, who had made it to the opposite sidewalk.

At that moment, a speeding van hit the boy and Nelson, who was holding her 2-year-old daughter, killing the boy and injuring the mother and toddler.

Jerry Lyn Guy, who had been convicted of hit-and-run twice before, drove away from the scene, but was later arrested.

He was charged with felony hit-and-run and has since served a six-month prison term and must complete four-and-a-half years of probation.

Assistant Cobb County solicitor AnnaMarie Baltz told a judge last week that prosecutors only sought supervised release.

“We never intended to seek jail time,” Baltz said. “But the State is bound to uphold the law.”

Nelson was sentenced to 12 months' probation and 40 hours of community service, but her previous attorney Dave Savoy said his client likely wanted to clear her name.

And she remained undecided following the sentencing, although the judge allowed her a month to make a choice and set a court date for October.

“There's a part of me that doesn't want to go through this again,” Nelson said on the “Today” show.

University of Georgia law school endowed chair Ron Carlson offered some perspective in Cobb County state court Judge Katherine Tanksley’s unusual decision.

“If the results of the jury decision are either contrary to the evidence or supply what the judge feels is an unfair result, a new trial can and sometimes is granted,” Carlson said.

Cobb County solicitor Barry Morgan declined to comment on Tanksley’s decision, citing the pending retrial.

Carlson said a retrial might work in Nelson’s favor.

“The prosecutors will have to make a very challenging decision about whether the expense of a retrial is worth it, given the fact that they are not going to ask for any jail time,” he said.

Sadow said he hoped, based upon the national media attention Nelson’s case has drawn and the outpouring of support she’s received, that Morgan chose not to prosecute a second time.

“There has been a public outcry against this prosecution,” Nelson’s new attorney said. “I sincerely hope that … Morgan does the right thing and dismisses the case before a retrial is necessary.”

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