LESS OF AN OUTRAGE! “Vehicular Manslaughter” Mom Gets Probation

Hi Folks — Here’s good news. The Atlanta mom who was convicted of “vehicular manslaughter” after her 4-year-old wriggled away from her and was killed by a drunk driver, does not have to do jail time. While she could have been sent away for three years, she will instead do a year of probation and perform 40 hours of community service. She also has been offered the option of another trial.

The driver, meantime, already did six months in jail and was released in October. He will serve  the remained of his five-year sentence on probation, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Here’s my original post on the topic. The case ended up getting a lot of attention — including on The Today Show — and over 100,000 folks signed a petition asking the powers that be to throw out the mom’s conviction and install a crosswalk instead. Whether or not the judge, Katherine Tanksley, was moved by the furor, she showed compassion and common sense.

That’s what we want from all our judges. Now let’s hope Atlanta builds that crosswalk.  – Lenore

UPDATE!! Outrage of the Week: Mom Convicted in Death of Her Son (Who Ran Across the Street)

UPDATE! Readers — Here’s a petition asking Georgia to release the mother from her “vehicular manslaughter” conviction and PUT IN A CROSSWALK! I just signed it! — L. 

Hi Readers — This case is so sickeningly sad, I don’t know where to begin. Fortunately, a blog I’d never heard of before — Transportation for America — does a PERFECT  job of summing up the whole story and why it is such an outrage. Read it right here and kudos to the author, David Goldberg.

In brief: An Atlanta mom and her three kids got off a bus stop that is across a busy highway from her home. She COULD have dragged everyone to the next light,  three tenths of a mile up the road, but it seemed to make sense to try to cross. Not only was her apartment in sight across the way, but the other passengers who disembarked were crossing the highway right there, too.

So she and her kids made it to the median, but then the 4-year-old squirmed away and got killed by a drunk driver. The driver was convicted of a hit and run.  The mom was convicted of vehicular manslaughter. Yep. But as Goldberg says:

What about the highway designers, traffic engineers, transit planners and land use regulators who allowed a bus stop to be placed so far from a signal and made no other provision for a safe crossing; who allowed – even encouraged, with wide, straight lanes – prevailing speeds of 50-plus on a road flanked by houses and apartments; who carved a fifth lane out of a wider median that could have provided more of a safe refuge for pedestrians; who designed the entire landscape to be hostile to people trying to get to work and groceries despite having no access to a car?

They are as innocent as the day is long, according to the solicitor general’s office.

Goldberg also points out that none of the jurors who convicted the mom had ever even taken a public bus in Atlanta. They all had cars. In other words:

They had never taken two buses to go grocery shopping at Wal-Mart with three kids in tow. They had never missed a transfer on the way home that caused them to wait a full hour-and-a-half with tired and hungry kids for the next bus. They had never been let off at a bus stop on a five-lane speedway, with their apartment in sight across the road, and been asked to drag those three little ones an additional half-mile-plus down the road to the nearest traffic signal and back in order to get home at last.

When we prosecute parents who are trying their hardest, who make mistakes, or who misjudge a situation, we are prosecuting them for being what parents have always been: human. Not superheroes with super strength, judgment, fortitude and foresight.

A human parent is what I am and what we all are. Let’s not make that a crime. — Lenore

A Boy, A Dad, A Tragedy and A Big Question

Readers — I just read this story and am sick to my heart. A dad brought his 5 year old son to the park then crossed the street to talk to some friends. The boy ran after him. He got struck by a car and died. Now the father is in jail and the charge has just been upgraded from “felony cruelty to children, reckless conduct and simple battery” to involuntary manslaughter.

I cannot imagine how that father would feel even if he weren’t in jail. It’s boggling. This is a tragedy pure and simple. But the issues are not so simple at all.

We live in a society that does not believe in accidents any more, or bad luck, or fate, or even, when it comes to children’s safety, “God’s will.” That’s good, in the sense that it makes us strap our kids into car seats, and take some basic precautions. But it’s corrosive in that when anything bad does happen to a child, we almost always blame the parents. The media does it, the DA does it (perhaps for political gain), and the neighbors may well do it, too. Sometimes we do it almost reflexively, as if to protect ourselves. “Well I would never do that so nothing bad will ever happen to my family.”

As if none of us has ever lost track of our kids for a sec.

Now, certainly, it makes sense to keep watch over a young child at the park. But if we slip up for a minute, if we do something human and not  intended to hurt anyone, especially our beloved child,   should that count as “cruelty”? What if it’s something that normally is NOT particularly dangerous? What if we go to the basement to put in a load of laundry and our child follows us and falls down the stairs? What if throw a ball to our child and, trying to catch it, he runs into a tree? What if we go across the street to say hi to a neighbor and unbeknownst to us our child follows and is hit, like this boy, by a car?

Is there no split-second that a parent is legally allowed to not be physically protecting his kindergartener from every possible danger? That’s a tough precedent to set. Think about even a child on a swing. Can we watch him there, knowing he COULD fall off? Or must we sit on the swing and hold him on our lap?

And didn’t a lot of us walk to school on our OWN, starting in kindergarten? I did. My husband and his siblings did. If we’d been hit by a car, no one would have arrested our parents. They would have grieved with them.

Right now, I am grieving for that boy and his family. And I am grieving for a society that is so convinced nothing bad ever happens to the children of GOOD parents that it is willing to put this man on trial.  A man who is already in hell. — Lenore

 

It's hard to think of any kid dying.