Toyota's Brakes Could Steer A Prisoner Free
Last night I had a dream. I was speeding and was flagged by an officer. I was possessed by Satan so I led the police officer to a wild chase before stopping. The officer was visibly angry, nonetheless, when I blamed it on Toyota’s acceleration/brake problem, he seemed to mellow and let me go.
Now it is Koua Fong Lee’s turn to convince a jury that the story he told them in 1996 was indeed true.
On June 10, 2006, Lee was driving his Toyota Camry in Minnesota. On board with him were his pregnant wife, 4-year-old daughter, father, and a brother. He was on an exit ramp on Interstate 94 in St. Paul. According to Lee, his car suddenly accelerated and all his efforts to stop the car was in vain. He rear ended an Oldsmobile that was stopped at a red light, and in that crash three people died. The police said the car was traveling between 70 and 90 mph when it hit the Oldsmobile.
At his trial, a local mechanic who had checked his car after the incident testified that there was nothing wrong with the brakes. The prosecutor argued Lee must have hit the gas pedal instead of the brake. The jury did not trust Lee either, and came with a guilty verdict. The judge sentenced him to eight years in prison.
After the widespread Toyota electronic control failures became known, Phil Carruthers, who prosecuted Lee in 2007 commented, “We don’t want an innocent man sitting in prison.” Bob Hilliard, a Texas attorney, is preparing to file a lawsuit for Lee. Hilliard said even the victims’ family has now come to terms that indeed Lee might have been telling truth all along. Country-wide many cases such as Lee's, some resolved long ago, are getting new attention.
Meanwhile, I am loathe to drive my Prius with the fear that the steering control failure might repeat, and next time I may not be that lucky.