Uncertainty about the safety of the Toyota Camry led to the release of a man convicted for vehicular homicide. Judge Joanne Smith of the District of Ramsey County, Minn., vacated the conviction of 32-year-old Koua Fong Lee who was given an eight-year sentence for killing a man and two young children in 2006.
Lee had rammed his 1996 Camry into the rear of an Oldsmobile Ciera sedan, ending the lives of its three occupants. At his trial, Lee took the witness stand and insisted that he had his foot on the brake but the car just would not stop. His attorney told jurors during his closing argument that instead of the brake, Lee must have been accidentally stepping on the accelerator.
The judge stated that Lee's attorney made a mistake by failing to present evidence that Lee had been stepping on the brake, and by failing to unearth evidence that existed back then about defects resulting to unintended acceleration. Immediately after the judge made the ruling, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said she would not be seeking a new trial nor file an appeal.
Gaertner released a written statement, saying that it's "time to bring this very tragic situation to a close." Lee's conviction is vacated but the manslaughter charges will remain on his record. He will be on probation for 15 years, and will not be given driving privileges for 10 years.
Toyota has recalled 11.2 million vehicles worldwide, including 9.2 million in the US, for sticky pedals and other defects since last fall. Last April, Toyota consented to paying a record $16.4 million US fine for the delay in notifying the regulators about its sticky pedal problems. Carolyn Trice, the mother and grandmother of those killed, commented that she was glad that an innocent man will be freed.