Eight years

He was coming home from church. With him in the car was his pregnant wife, his daughter and two other relatives (news articles from the time report father and brother or father-in-law and brother-in-law).

He tested negative for drugs or alcohol. He has no criminal history. He was not on a cell phone at the time.

His car plowed into another at a busy intersection, and two people died. A child in the car was seriously injured and died a year and a half later. It was estimated that his car was traveling between 70-90 miles per hour.

He is now serving eight years for vehicular homicide. His name is Koua Fong Lee.  He was driving a 1996 Toyota Camry. Some of the 1996 Camrys had been recalled due to a problem with the cruise control that caused “unexpected acceleration.”

Now Lee’s new attorney wants the case reopened.

At the time of the first trial, both Lee’s attorney and the prosecutor speculated that Lee had mistakenly stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake.  Lee denied this, saying that he yelled to his family that the brakes were not working as he furiously tried to stop. The prosecutor said that any individual who couldn’t tell the gas from the brake shouldn’t be driving.

A mechanic who inspected Lee’s car found no problem with the brakes, which was widely reported.  However, one part of the testimony did not receive much coverage:

A much shorter portion of his testimony centered on the accelerator; mechanic Michael Churchich said the throttle was stuck open about 15 to 20 percent. He speculated that could have been caused by the impact of the crash itself.

The throttle was stuck open? And that didn’t cause any doubt in anyone’s mind?  Why was the mechanic allowed to speculate?  And was his speculation challenged by the defense attorney?

I can’t help but wonder what might have happened to Lee if he had been, say, a white physician who killed somebody while driving drunk.

October 2007 article:  Guilty verdict

January 2008 article:  Sentencing

Am I the only one who wishes his attorney hadn’t said “wild kamikaze guy”?

3 thoughts on “Eight years

  1. Resistance, the outside link doesn’t work.

    This is potentially very major news for Toyota, implying the possibility of problems in many more vehicles over many more years.

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