A grandmother said the justice system is failing her and her granddaughter after the two were struck while legally crossing the street in a crosswalk in Bowie, Maryland, in 2015.
Dynesti Maraj, 2, was killed in the accident, and Lazina Alie, the grandmother, was injured when the two were struck while they were in the crosswalk at Maryland Route 197 and Old Chapel Road.
The Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s office says the driver wasn’t under the influence, wasn’t texting, talking on his phone or speeding and stayed on the scene, which means they could only face misdemeanor charges.
Alie and her family were expecting a criminal manslaughter charge for the driver, but John Erzen, a spokesperson for the Prince George's County State's Attorney's Office, said the law dictates what charges could be filed.
“There was nothing we could show that this was anything more than just a tragic accident by the driver of the vehicle,” Erzen said. “Those two lead charges, the failure to stop or yield, they do carry a max sentence of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine for each offense.”
Alie is unsatisfied with the outcome.
“I sustained multiple broken bones, contusions. Needless to say, the mental anguish we continue to undergo,” she said. “Strike someone, kill someone while on a pedestrian crosswalk, and you pay pennies. If you are not texting, if you are not speeding or if you’ve not consumed alcohol, it’s OK to kill someone in a crosswalk.”
Alie is working to get support for Dynesti’s Bill, a proposal she’s crafted to change Maryland’s pedestrian laws. She wants the law to specify that cars coming from any direction must stop if someone is in the crosswalk.
“Once the cross light signed is pushed, all traffic, regardless of direction, come to a complete stop,” Alie said.
The state’s attorney’s office may be interested in reviewing her idea.
“Certainly, if legislation is presented, we’ll do what we do with a lot of that legislation, which is take a look at it and see if it’s something we can get behind,” Erzen said.
“We should be aware. We should pay attention,” Alie said. “We can’t simple say we didn’t see them and it’s an accident. Accidents happen, but sometimes, we can stop things from happening.”
An online petition has been created to present to a legislative sponsor in hopes of getting a bill written and passed.