• Feb 24, 2010

Click above to watch the videos after the jump

In June 2006, Koua Fong Lee was driving his pregnant wife and other family members home from church when he says his 1996 Toyota Camry accelerated on its own and the brakes stopped working. Lee struck another vehicle, killing three people in that car. A Minnesota jury convicted Lee of vehicular homicide and the native of Laos was sentenced to an eight-year prison sentence even though there was no evidence of alcohol or drugs involved in the incident.

Fast-forward to over three years later, and Toyota's recall woes for unintended acceleration are casting doubt on the jury's decision to convict Lee. But while the 1996 Camry isn't involved in the current recall, some 1996 models were recalled for unintended acceleration. Further, ABC News says that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received at least 17 other complaints of unintended acceleration in 1996 Camrys with comments like "couldn't stop" and "had to crash into a tree and another car to stop."

Brent Schafer, the lawyer for Lee, has asked for a new trial, and for his client to be set free until the time of a new hearing. The prosecution in the case told ABC News that it supports examining the 1996 Camry involved in the crash to determine if the car is at fault instead of Lee. For its part, Toyota has chosen not to comment to ABC News due to the fact that there could be a future lawsuit brought against the company. Click past the jump to watch the network's video coverage of this story (*Warning: videos may be slow to play – if they fail to load, please click here).



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[Source: ABC News]





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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 75 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      damn thats EFF'd up. this is less of a case about Toyota's recall, but more of how eff'd up our judicial system is. ugh. eff the system. its a necessity to have a judicial system to minimize/prevent total anarchy, but the system in todays society here just plain sucks ass.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I am not scared of runaway Toyotas, but I am more scared of people that can't react and shift their cars into neutral.
        • 4 Years Ago
        This woman testified yesterday that shifting her new Lexus ES with less than 3000 miles into lower gears and neutral, and even reverse, had no effect and that she wasn't able to shut her engine off until 6 miles later, and while her car was being lifted up onto a flatbed for towing it started cranking to start itself while in neutral.
        http://www.c-spanarchives.org/program/ID/219998&start=4073
        • 4 Years Ago
        That is what I have been wondering this whole time.

        If my car's gas pedal was truly stuck, plop it in neutral and coast to a stop, then turn off the car. I can believe a gas pedal *could* get "stuck", but I can't see where a car would continue accelerating while in neutral.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This was on the news the other day. I haven't watched the video links here, but what I saw on the news the other day was that the type of recall of that era was for the cruise control system. I don't know if the brake didn't cancel it out or not, but it seems they could have a mind of their own.

      If the car really did take off for real, I feel for the guy, I really do, but kind of have to wonder why evidence couldn't be found at the time. Mom my started up a 80s Caprice many moons ago and the car just took off full throttle. She hit a small building and luckily, no one was hurt, no charges were filed and the cruise control was found to be faulty. How could a failed cruise control not be found at the original time of the case?

      The problem with waking up every single case that deals with a Toyota is, if this man is found to be not guilty, it would open up a opportunity for all lawyers to use the case for all car makers. How many complaints does it take for a automaker to have a massive recall or before complaints can be used in court? 1? 5? 10? 17?

      This case could be precedent for ALL car wrecks in the future from all automakers that had recalls or complaints for that year. So before anyone goes cheering on about Toyota's woes, this could effect the way future cases are fought and it could end up letting bad people go free.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I had a 89 camry with a cruise control issue. When the air was dry and the static would build the cruise control would not stop when you hit the brakes. So the engine was trying to accelerate back to the highway speeds while you are braking to stop. It was a small 4 cylinder back then so you could stop it. I took it into the dealer 3 or 4 times before they finally just disconneted the cruise control. I had the car for 9 more years and never heard of a recall from Toyota.
        • 4 Years Ago
        You have to take the good with the bad.

        I would much prefer a system that "good" and "bad" people get off because of lack of evidence, then the the alternative.

        Innocent till PROVEN guilty my friend.
        • 4 Years Ago
        My old corolla had some cruise control problems too. While on the freeway, I've had it randomly go down a gear and lurch forward and accelerate until I hit the brakes/shut off cruise control. Didn't think much of it, I just stopped using cruise control.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I find this hard to swallow as the 96 Camry had a mechanical throttle.
      Regardless, it's tough for a mechanical throttle to get stuck. It will usually give you signs beforehand, not suddenly lock into position, out of nowhere!

      Sort of like how ball bearings ( or anything pivoting ) usually start getting sticky and difficult before it completely seizes up. This wouldn't be a Toyota specific problem, this is an old car problem!

      If the brakes stopped working, it's probably a maintenance issue or freak occurrence.. sorry, these things happen! I had the brakes go out on my '94 Del Sol because my master cylinder was dying to begin with but that was exacerbated by high temperatures.. my own damn fault.

      Of course they'll get complaints of unintended acceleration. It's not out of the norm. When it's happening in high numbers, that's when you need to worry.

      The 'let's sue Toyota for everything' bandwagon has officially gone too far.
      8 years in prison over a malfunctioning car seems a little far fetched to me too.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Precisely. You took the words right out of my mouth.
      • 4 Years Ago
      How in the Hell did he get jail time for that regardless of the recall!? He wasn't drinking, or on drugs. He was driving, and there was an accident. Some people died. It's sad. It happens. But 8 years in a friggin prison cell? I've never heard of anything like that!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Fear not. If this guy is absolved because of Toyota's problems his victims next of kin will also have standing to sue Toyota. I'm sure they're turning away offers from lawyers even now...
        • 4 Years Ago
        Oh, he was going 90? I didn't check out the videos, so I missed that. That at least makes SOME sense. But still, like you said, in light of recent discoveries he should probably not be in the clink anymore.
        • 4 Years Ago
        He was going 90mph at the time of the crash, and three people were killed. It's not unreasonable to assume that he was driving recklessly, and at that point he should be punished. No one at the time knew of these problems with Toyota, and the victims family certainly deserved to have some sort of justice done. But of course in light of everything happening right now, we can't so sure. I think at the very least he should be freed from prison. I'm not sure how they could ever prove it was the car's fault now, but it should present enough doubt that this man deserves to be free.
      • 4 Years Ago
      My ex-gf had a 90-91 camry, one of the small compact ones. The one thing that drove me crazy about it was the fact that when you hit the gas pedal to take off it would stick and you would have to give it a little push. Well when you did that it was like taking off and the front end jumped a little because you couldnt control how much gas you gave it. Once it got passed the sticky part it was fine. Such a pain.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Toyota should rename the company and start all over again with new Supra

      • 4 Years Ago
      1996 Toyota Camry. Toyota from FIFTEEN YEARS AGO.

      This has NOTHING to do with the unintended acceleration, this guy is a frakking idiot and deserves to be in jail for murdering a father, a 10 year old boy, and a 7 year old girl.

      Autoblog, I am disappoint. You should have looked in to this more before you posted it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Chubaka

        You doubt he intentionally killed his pregnant wife and his family? What you were in the car? What happened to people being crazy?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Dude get a brain
        • 4 Years Ago
        Per the article, his year Camry was recalled, under an earlier recall, for a defect that could result in unintended acceleration.
        • 4 Years Ago
        And how would you know it had NOTHING to do with unintended acceleration? He had his pregnant wife and other family with him in his car, which he also put in danger, so I doubt he INTENTIONALLY killed the people in the other car. True, driver negligence may play it's part here, but there's no way for us to know and no way to judge Mr. Lee if WE can't even look into it further either.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Lots of people are going to get fired... The justice system needs a recall.
      • 4 Years Ago
      All these people are idiots or terrible drivers just looking for an excuse to get them out of trouble....

      comments like "couldn't stop" and "had to crash into a tree and another car to stop."

      are pathetic and just shows how the majority of the drivers in america should not be behind the wheel.... people that don't know how to SHIFT into neutral or even turn OFF the engine but think ramming into a tree to come to a stop is the best solutions, if it were trully accelerating on it's own, which it probably wasn't, need to be taken off the road anyways so I say good riddance to this dirt bag.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "..which it probably wasn't.."
        That's some fine detective work, Nancy Drew.

        "..good riddance.."
        Umm, no. They're giving him jail time, not the chair. He's not from (godbless)Texas.

        "..dirt bag."
        Welcome to America!
        • 4 Years Ago
        I wonder what you would say if it was someone in your family like your mom?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Your completely wrong with your comment. Ever heard of the word panic? look it up and you might understand why some people are not able to put the car into N.
        • 4 Years Ago
        many reports show that even when you attempt to turn off the engine/put the car in neutral nothing happens
      • 4 Years Ago
      wow this is messed up..i saw this on the news the other day..dude i think they should pardon him...and toyota should pay both families some money
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm so fricking pissed off, i own a 1996 camry with 220k+ miles, never once had accelerator pedals stick, plus the throttle on that car is COMPLETLY different than the throttle in the newer camrys.

      Appart from the point, i garuntee this was a STUNT so this person can get money from toyota. This kinda crap pisses me off, sure toyota has some problems, but they are working them out, leave them alone and let them fix the problems in the best way! Dont crash into a tree and tell me ur accelerator pedal got stuck even though you realize you have something called "NUETRAL!" and a PARKING BRAKE!, give it a try if you believe your car is going out of control. Slow down, if it truely is stuck.

      But for the sake of people who actually try to make a good car for many many years, yet Ford and chevy have made worse cars with worse problems for many more years yet they didnt get as much flack as this, because toyota has been the example. But remember no one is perfect, its growing pains, give them time, things will work out, and STOP FINDING EXCUSES TO CRASH YOUR CAR SO YOU CAN GET MONEY!
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