• Aug 6, 2010
Koua Fong Lee, the man who was convicted in 2006 of killing three people when his Toyota Camry struck a vehicle at a stoplight, has been acquitted of any crime. Lee served a total of two-and-a-half years in prison after his defense attorney failed to adequately show that he had been applying the brake on his vehicle the whole time. In the wake of a number of unintended acceleration claims on similar Toyota vehicles and increasing outcry for his release (including a big ABC News feature), Lee's case was reopened. In four days of testimony, his new counsel had a series of drivers who had experience unintended acceleration in their Toyotas take the stand. Eventually, the presiding judge heard enough and released Lee prosecutor dropped the charges against Lee.

Lee served two-and-a-half years of an eight-year sentence for vehicular homicide after his first attorney actually suggested to the jury that Lee could have mistaken the accelerator for the brake pedal. Combined with the defendant's limited English and the fact that few people had heard of unintended acceleration at the time of the first trail, the judge sentenced Lee to the maximum penalty under the law. Now that he's been released, Lee says that he'll focus on getting to know the youngest of his four children. Thanks for the tip, Brian!

[Source: AOL Autos | Image: Ben Garvin/Associated Press]


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  • 77 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think the poor victims families wanted to go for the money rather than Mr. Lee sitting in jail.
      • 4 Years Ago
      it seems the scapegoat that the minnesota courts wanted to pay for the tragedy got lucky through toyota's misfortune.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Didnt we just have a story where as is the case most times, it was pedal misapplication in toyota's case as well?
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ rich,
        so whiskers is correct
        beyond all reasonable doubt - so even if 2% of the cases were a stuck pedal than that is reasonable doubt

        this guy should be free, and not only that but Toyota needs to step up and show him some courtesy for having spend 2 1/2 years in prison for TOyota's fault
        they need to pony up some $$ to him as well

        if I was him, once i had my time with my family i'd go after Toyota for sure
        • 4 Years Ago
        And couldn't they just look at the ECU, or investigate the tire marks at the scene of the crash? I might it's possible that "unintended acceleration" was the cuprit, but also highly unlikely. They ought to examine the car before just letting him free on (NHTSA's) hearsay. Ridiculous.
        • 4 Years Ago
        they said pedal confusion was the culprit in the accidents, not ALL cases.. Furthermore as highlighted in a la times article, Toyota has legal filings indicating their own technicians replicated legit unintended acceleration events.

        Bravo to toyota for hoodwinking idiots who can't read.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Ligor, you need to do some research on this case...you're acting like an ignorant fool!
        • 4 Years Ago
        Forget the pedal talk. I'm just hoping the youngest kids that he's going to now tend to is older than 12 months.......

        • 4 Years Ago
        @ mapoftazifosho

        Hmmm... Perhaps the cruise control is also actuated by the pedal as well- via cable no less?

        The excuse of "cable actuated" doesn't really fly when you throw cruise control into the mix.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Some Toyota's experienced SUA...so ALL TOYOTA's must experience SUA!

        Example:

        It's hot in July, Global warming must be real.

        ZOMG, it's snowing in February, Global warming is fake!

        This guy's car was an older model that utilized a throttle cable, and was NOT in the recall...

        What a complete failure of our court system...

        • 4 Years Ago
        Erik - "beyond all reasonable doubt". I'd say this throws a doubt wrench into the trial process.
        • 4 Years Ago
        A newspaper story based on an anonymous rumor than cannot be confirmed is not really going to hold up in court. I think they should have waited for the outcome of the NHTSA investigation before deciding this guy's fate...
        • 4 Years Ago
        Anyone who delves just slightly deeper into the background of this case will conclude that this is a miscarriage of justice, and the Camry is just a sideshow.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Indeed they did show most times it was a "misapplication" of the gas instead of the brake. I'm surprised Autoblog didn't catch the other important factor in this case. The Camry is a 1999 which is not in the line of recalled vehicles. The unintended acceleration issue should not have been applied in this case.

        However, as the defending attorney tried to "save" his client by indicating it was an accident it undermined his client. I wasn't there so who's to say what happened but this guy got a crappy lawyer.
        • 4 Years Ago
        If he had indeed misapplied the pedal by accident then they shouldn't have actually convicted him of vehicular homicide either, so it actually doesn't matter whether or not unintentional acceleration is because of an intrinsic problem with the car or due to drivers being confused. You could convict him of manslaughter if you could prove that he hit the wrong pedal, but the charge he was convicted on is homicide.
        Honestly he never should have been convicted of homicide but it sounds like he couldn't really speak English and couldn't afford a decent lawyer so the original judge basically went ballistic on this guy and gave him the maximum sentence. They threw the case out because just showing that lots of people have incidents of unintentional acceleration is actually enough to throw REASONABLE DOUBT on the claim that he was being homicidal. It doesn't mean that he didn't accidentally kill people, just that there's enough doubt that he purposefully killed people to throw out the homicide charge.
        In reality he probably wasn't used to driving and screwed up when panicking and hit the wrong pedal. Which is a horrible, horrible, thing but not something you generally charge people with homicide, nor give 8 years of jail time for. They probably sprung him because even if you convicted him of manslaughter he would have served sufficient time. Most prisoners never serve the full sentence anyway so he's likely already served way more than someone convicted of vehicular manslaughter would have.
      • 4 Years Ago
      i wonder if this guy weren't asian (due to certain stereotypes) and bad at english if he'd have gotten the book thrown at him in the first place.

      nevertheless since we'll never know if he was at fault or not, i think time spent ended up being fair. the justice system sort of works.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yes, because Asians represent such a disproportional set of prison inmates. What is it like less then 1%.
        • 4 Years Ago
        i freaking loved that joystick growing up.

        i meant the fairly well known stereotype that asians are bad drivers (see rocker, john).
      • 4 Years Ago
      Not sure if anyone's brought this up yet, but the throttle mechanisms of the newest generation Camry and the 1996 ones are completely different. To my knowledge, even the 2001 models have the classic wire throttle while the ones recalled were electronic.

      Either way, the guy killed another person.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Gua -You are the dumbest Asian ever
      • 4 Years Ago
      Zanardi1782, yes, the system says he's innocent.

      The system also said that OJ Simpson was not a murderer. Whats DNA?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Oh wow, OK that makes pretty good sense to me dude.

      Lou
      www.web-privacy.at.tc
      • 4 Years Ago
      That's kind of the point. Mr. Lee was on trial, not Toyota. He is the one who is innocent until proven guilty.

      Now, I'm not familiar with all the facts of the case, but the system found him guilty, he starting serving his sentence, and the system later exonerated him based on new evidence. So he is innocent. That's how the system works.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Well, after reading several stories on this case, I note that the Judge and prosecutor both agreed that he got a crappy trial. Another black eye on the judicial system. Just like the guy in TX who just got released after 27 years in jail when DNA proved he was NOT a rapist. Our much vaunted judicial system is a joke. Heaven help ANY of us who have to defend our selves in court.
      On a more interesting note, the breaking news at the top of this page says "Report: Toyota was aware of unintended acceleration claims by 2003, says lawsuit". Hmmm....
      No connection right.

      Toyota screwed the moose on this one. Regardless of the validity of the claims.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This is the modern-day equivalent of releasing a prisoner because a Salem witch made him do it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Another black eye and the first one hasn't had a chance to heal yet.
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