Raquel Nelson: 'I'm Walking out of Here'
Judge Kathryn Tanksley gives the Marietta mom probation, no jail and the option to seek a new trial in her son's hit-and-run death.
Update 9 p.m. Nelson will opt for a new trial, Savoy told The Associated Press tonight.
11:50 a.m. Hand in hand with her brother, Nelson joins a mass of supporters in walking away from the crowd of cameras.
11:50 a.m. And Nelson is leaving the courthouse.
11:49 a.m. Nelson: I'd like to thank everyone who showed up today. Asked about her opinion on the sentence, she says: "I'm walking out of here today."
11:47 a.m. Nelson is coming out of the courtroom. She'll make a statement and then will go home. No questions.
11:46 a.m. A mass of media is waiting outside the courtroom for Nelson to finish some paperwork. She told Patch she plans to make a statement.
11:39 a.m. When asked about the judge's sentence, Nelson gave a thumbs-up.
11:38 a.m. Nelson just told Patch she is unsure whether she will seek the new trial. "I'm just taking one day at a time," she says.
11:20 a.m. Nelson still has to report for probation, Savoy says. It's unclear what they will tell her pending a new trial.
11:18 a.m. Savoy says Nelson will seek the new trial.
11:14 a.m. We're adjourned.
11:14 a.m. Nelson mouths "thank you" to the judge.
11:13 a.m. The judge grants Nelson a new trial.
11:12 a.m. The judge gives her 40 hours of community service.
11:10 a.m. Nelson stands. The judge gives her 12 months' probation. Cheers come from the crowd. Also, no fine, but Nelson must pay court costs.
11:09 a.m. The judge says being found guilty on all three counts subjects you to a 12-month sentence and a fine.
11:09 a.m. The defense cites case law relating to the charges and merging.
11:08 a.m. The defense is asking for all three charges to be merged. The judge asks, what would be the point in that?
11:07 a.m. The judge says she has also received e-mails and letters.
11:06 a.m. Letters from about 12 people and emails from people supporting Nelson are present. All of them are from citizens of Cobb County.
11:04 a.m. A letter from a staff member at Chattahoochee Tech, where Nelson is a student, says she has been successful. She's hardworking and always stayed positive.
11:03 a.m. A letter is being read from Nelson's boss at WellStar. She's part of the front-office staff. She is a very loving mother. She hasn't had a chance to grieve yet.
11:01 a.m. Letter: Our hearts are looking to heal. By releasing my daughter you will allow us to heal and put the negative part of his death behind us.
11 a.m. Thomas Casillas reads a letter from Nelson's father, who lives in South Africa with her mother. AJ's death was an accident.
11 a.m. He bursts into tears and hugs his sister at the defense table. Family members have to escort him away.
10:59 a.m. Love: If not for my sister, I wouldn't have finished high school. Please send my sister home with us. She doesn't deserve to be in jail.
10:58 a.m. Next is Enomy Love, Nelson's brother: No matter what happened in our lives, she always wanted us to be better people.
10:57 a.m. Word: So much has already been done. We need to move on. She has to relive it every time she has to deal with this.
10:56 a.m. Nelson is crying, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue.
10:55 a.m. Word: She ran a happy home. Erin was always dressed nicely. If we needed volunteers, she was always there. Ms. Nelson has paid her debt.
10:54 a.m. Next is Beverly Word. She has known Nelson for two years and is one of her children's teachers. She says Nelson made sure Erin was at school every day.
10:53 a.m. Malta-Bey: It's hard not to be moved by her story. Her children are her life. The loss is unspeakable.
10:52 a.m. The first character witness is taking the stand, Clementine Malta-Bey. She is Nelson's therapist.
10:51 a.m. Savoy: There is no amount of punishment that will be more than what she has already lived through.
10:50 a.m. Savoy: Nelson stands before you a shattered and grieving mother.
10:49 a.m. Savoy: This was not a negligent act. There is no legitimate reason to ask this family to continue to suffer.
10:48 a.m. Savoy: Nelson had dreams for her son. The state offered Nelson a plea agreement, and she rejected it.
10:47 a.m. Savoy: Nelson tried to give AJ mouth to mouth. If they had tried to cross at the crosswalk, the van would still have hit him.
10:46 a.m. Savoy: The what-ifs haunt you. What would have happened if they had never left the house that day?
10:45 a.m. Savoy: Nelson will live with this every day for the rest of her life. AJ's sister blames herself because AJ was with her when he was hit.
10:44 a.m. Savoy: She hasn't been allowed to grieve with the case hanging over her head.
10:44 a.m. Nelson is a single mother with three children who depends on public transportation for every aspect of her life. Crossing that street was nothing more than hundreds of people had done before.
10:43 a.m. Savoy says Nelson was holding her child's hand, waited on the median, and followed A.J. into the street.
10:42 a.m. "The plea for her baby will haunt me forever," Savoy says.
10:41 a.m. David Savoy, Nelson's attorney, says it was dificult to find a dry eye in this courtroom when the 911 tape was played of Nelson calling.
10:40 a.m. The state seeks 12 months' probation and community service for all the three charges. The state never intended for her to serve jail time.
10:39 a.m. The prosecution goes first. This was a tragedy, but Nelson was convicted of the three misdemeanors.
10:37 a.m. Judge Kathryn Tanksley is here. She's asking both sides if they are ready to go.
10:34 a.m. No sign of the judge yet.
10:24 a.m. Wearing a white blouse and black pants, Nelson has arrived in the courtroom.
10:23 a.m. A court official just asked the audience to scoot closer together to make room for more people.
10:11 a.m. The courtroom is standing room only with various media outlets packing the jury box. Nelson has not come in yet.
10:08 a.m. About 45 to 50 supporters of Raquel Nelson just held a prayer outside the courtroom.
Courthouse Updates Above
Raquel Nelson will learn this morning whether she will have to serve jail time for not preventing her 4-year-old son from being killed by a hit-and-run driver last year.
Judge Kathryn Tanksley is expected to see a packed Courtroom 3A this morning at 10:30 in the courthouse at 12 East Park Square when she decides the sentence for the 30-year-old Marietta mother of two surviving daughters.
We'll have updates this morning here and on Twitter (@MariettaPatch) from the courthouse.
A Cobb County State Court jury convicted Nelson this month of second-degree vehicular homicide, reckless conduct and crossing a street elsewhere than a crosswalk in the April 10, 2010, accident that killed her son.
Nelson, a college student, and her children joined others in crossing busy Austell Road that evening directly from their Cobb Community Transit bus stop to their apartment complex instead of walking more than 500 yards down the road to a crosswalk.
The family had been out shopping for Nelson's birthday and missed the bus that would have brought them home before dark. Nelson has said she had plastic shopping bags wrapped around her wrists, but also had the children by the hands. She felt A.J. slip from her grasp as he followed some others from the middle median to the other side of the road.
A.J. was fatally struck by a van driven by Jerry Guy, who didn't stop. Nelson and one of her daughters were hit and slightly injured.
Guy was soon caught and pleaded guilty to his third hit-and-run conviction under an agreement that dropped a DUI charge.
Guy served six months of a five-year sentence and was released and put on probation Oct. 29.
Nelson could be sentenced to a year in prison for each of her three misdemeanor convictions, although such a long term would be unusual.
The potential of a grieving mother to serve more jail time than the man who killed her son has sparked local anger and international outrage, spurred online by blogs criticizing the prosecution, the jury and the pedestrian-unfriendly city planning, such as this commentary from Radley Balko at The Huffington Post.
The primary online petition supporting Nelson has received more than 130,000 signatures.