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“Toyota Defense” Could Possibly Reverse Jury Finding in Criminal Case

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CNN.com is reporting an interesting twist in the Toyota Recall drama. According to the news organization “a man serving eight years for vehicular homicide because of a fatal crash involving his Toyota Camry is hoping for exoneration amid concerns over unintended acceleration in some of Toyota’s vehicles.”

The CNN article discusses the criminal case of Koua Fong Lee who at 29 years old crashed as he exited I-94 in St. Paul, Minnesota, and approached an intersection. The story details that Mr. Lee was traveling between 70 and 90 mph when he struck two vehicles killing a man and his son and leaving another 6 year-old passenger as a paraplegic. The 6-year old later died from her injuries.

According to the story

Koua Fong Lee has always maintained his innocence in the 2006 crash. Then 29 years old, he was driving home from Sunday services with his pregnant wife, father, daughter, brother and niece in his 1996 Toyota Camry.

Lee told investigators that he pumped the brakes as he exited I-94 in St. Paul, Minnesota, and approached an intersection, his lawyer, Brent Schaefer, said. But Ramsey County prosecutors claimed Lee had his foot on the gas as he approached cars waiting at a red light.

Mr. Lee was convicted of vehicular homicide and sentenced to eight (8) years in prison but has steadfastly maintained his innocence.

The article quotes Mr. Lee as saying

"I know that lives were lost that day, but I did everything within my power to try to stop that vehicle," Lee said in a recent prison interview with CNN affiliate KARE. "I never intended for this to happen."

In an interesting twist, relatives of the victims who initially asked the judge to give Mr. Lee the maximum sentence are now coming to his defense. According to the story

Relatives of the victims, who asked the judge to give him the maximum sentence, now support him, said Bob Hilliard, a Texas lawyer who is preparing a lawsuit against Toyota on the family’s behalf. "I am passionate about getting him out and suing Toyota," Hilliard told CNN. He said the family feels "betrayed" by the evidence that led to Lee’s conviction. "It was all smoke and mirrors," Hilliard said. I hope to get to the bottom of it and find the truth," Quincy Adams, who survived the crash but lost his son, told KARE. "I feel that the boy [Koua Fong Lee] is innocent."

CNN conducted “a search of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s online complaint database revealed 526 incidents listed for the 1996 Toyota Camry. Among the complaints concerning air bags, tires, steering and visibility were at least two dozen related to "vehicle speed control," some dating back to 1997.”