Mum Sentenced Over Son's Hit-And-Run Death

A mother has been convicted of killing her four-year-old son after he died in a hit-and-run in the US because she crossed the road with her children at the wrong place.

Raquel Nelson had faced up to three years in prison - longer than the driver responsible for her child's death who served only six months behind bars.

However, the 30-year-old received a 12-months probationary sentence after the case caused public uproar in America.

Ms Nelson's son was killed in April last year when he was knocked down by a van after slipping from his mother's grasp as they crossed the road to get from a bus stop to their apartment building in the city of Marietta , north of Atlanta.

The distraught mum was also injured in the incident along with her young daughter.

Ms Nelson was subsequently prosecuted under the offence of jaywalking, which dictates that it is illegal to cross the road anywhere other than at a designated crossing point.

She was convicted by the all-white jury of second-degree vehicular homicide and other offences.

Her lawyer, David Savoy, said the driver was drinking and had taken painkillers on the night of the accident and was mostly blind in one eye. 

He also had a prior conviction for a hit-and-run accident.

"For vehicular homicide in the second degree you don't have to be driving a vehicle," Mr Savoy explained.

"It requires that you caused the death of another. She 'caused' the death of another. How tragic is that?"

Judge Kathryn Tanksley, who also ordered the defendant to perform 40 hours of community service and pay a $50 (£30) fine, invoked a little-used Georgia state law to offer her a new trial at the end of a hearing in which character witnesses and spectators wept.

Ms Nelson's lawyer and other character witnesses described her as an exemplary mother shattered by the accident for which she blamed herself.

She thanked the court but refused to say whether she would accept the offer of a new trial.

Some critics said the judge should not have handed out a sentence in a case that should never have been prosecuted.

Sally Flocks of the group Pedestrians Educating Drivers on Safety said the case exposed a lack of consideration for pedestrians in a state with a car-centric culture.

Most users of buses in Marietta, a largely white and conservative community north of Atlanta, are black and on low incomes, said Ms Flocks.

"There probably wasn't a lot of empathy among the jurors. [At trial] they asked people had anyone used public transport in metro Atlanta," she said. "Nobody raised their hand."