Tragedy Yes, Crime No
Several months ago, I walked out of Trader Joe's at the same time as a woman who was coming out with her child - still seated in the basket. There is a ramp from the parking lot near the entrance of the store. There are always plants and other items displayed outside. In a split second, this woman let go of the cart to look at something on the display and, while I am sure she didn't realize it, the cart with her child began to roll into the parking lot. Cars usually are driving slowly because the mall is too crowded but there are impatient hot rodders interspersed. I saw the cart rolling at the same time the mother did and she caught it before it was in the path of traffic. But I saw the look of embarrassment and panic on her face and realized just how quickly things can happen without any deliberate negligence or abject carelessness. It was just something that happened and, at least that time with that mother, nothing bad came of it.
This story happened in San Jose not far from where I live. Once I heard about it on the news, I couldn't bring myself to listen to it again or look at newspapers where it was plastered. Tragic as this was, I hope the young mother gets some justice and some peace of mind.
The babysitter charged in the November death of a toddler on South San Jose train tracks again postponed entering a plea Thursday amid indications that the prosecutor and her attorney are getting closer to an out-of-court settlement.
Katrina Hatton, 21, is scheduled to return to court at 2 p.m. Friday.
Attorneys involved in the case said that settlement talks are ongoing. Judge Jerome Nadler indicated he wanted to hear from the toddler's family before a settlement. He is expected to receive a probation report soon.
Supervising Deputy District Attorney Dan Nishigaya said he would like to see the case resolved short of a trial.
``What we're focusing on is getting her to accept responsibility,'' he said.
Hatton is charged with a felony child endangerment charge.
On the morning of Nov. 21, Hatton walked 2-year-old Alexander Arriaga and his 4-year-old brother, Elijah, across the train tracks at an illegal but commonly used crossing near Blossom Hill Road and Monterey Highway. She told the boys to stay off the tracks while she turned back for the stroller carrying her own baby daughter, but Alexander followed her and was struck and killed by an oncoming Amtrak train.
The boys' mother, Nicole Wilson, did not know Hatton. She had asked her friend Tiffany Ball to watch the boys while she went to work. But Ball and Hatton were friends, and when Ball had to leave, the boys remained in Hatton's care. Ball was not charged in the case.
Hatton's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Craig Kennedy, said he's comfortable with his client receiving probation, but not comfortable with any additional jail time for her.
Alexander's death spotlighted the plight of young mothers struggling to hold down jobs and knit together a system of care for their children. Wilson was at a job orientation at Toys 'R Us on the morning her son was killed. Ball worked at the McDonald's on Monterey Highway, and Hatton was on her way to apply for a job there when she walked the boys across the tracks.
Again, as we have people fighting against contraception, a woman's right to choose and men bailing out of paying child support, we have to consider the lives of children after they are born. The pro-life movement ends at birth while millions of children are born to poor, mothers with few options for daycare or the means to adequately raise their children. This woman was going to apply for a job at McDonald's with three children in tow. The victim was the child of another young, working mother who was strapped for babysitters. I think it was criminal to charge this woman with a crime. Albeit devastating, it was an accident caused by a temporary lapse in judgement. This, or something similar, could happen to even the best of mothers who have access to everything they need. I hope they free this woman so that she can reunite with her own children and family.