Free Koua Fong Lee From His Toyota Camry Nightmare

Last month I wrote about a recent Hmong immigrant in Minnesota serving an eight year sentence for a fatal accident. He may have been wrongfully convicted because of a faulty gas pedal in his Toyota Camry.

Koua Fong Lee was driving home from church with his wife and children when their 1996 Toyota Camry suddenly sped to 90 mph and crashed, killing three people.

The Innocence Project of Minnesota has now joined the case, which the prosecutor has agreed to revisit. Driver error was never proven.

A Facebook page has been created to garner attention to the case and support Mr. Lee's bid for a new trial. Right now it has 1,680 members. Check it out and become a fan, let's see how high we can get the numbers.

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    Thanks so much for this link (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by Gisleson on Fri Mar 26, 2010 at 03:52:16 PM EST
    The prosecutors keep talking but nothing gets done regarding getting Lee out of prison. His eight year sentence was more than double the average MN sentence for drunk drivers who injure others. It's impossible not to think that hysteria over the Cha "Hmong hunter" Vang slayings in Wisconsin drove this excessive sentence.

    TalkLeft isn't the Innocence Project, but you've kept more than your share of folks' hopes alive during some trying times.

    Thanks for all the good work you do.

    Agree on all counts (none / 0) (#2)
    by Cream City on Fri Mar 26, 2010 at 05:24:48 PM EST
    and that includes the impact of the Vang case in Wisconsin -- close to the Minnesota border.  I recall the nonstop news coverage and comments about that case quite well.  But I was not aware of this case in Minnesota until the TL post a while ago, so I also appreciate it.  And I am going to forward this info, the links, etc., to a good friend who is a leader in the Hmong community here in Wisconsin, although she probably knows about it, as she comes from the Hmong community in Minnesota.  Horrifying for them all, and they are so deserving of our support -- and gratitude.  

    To clarify (none / 0) (#12)
    by sleepingdogs on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 10:51:52 AM EST
    His eight year sentence was more than double the average MN sentence for drunk drivers who injure others.

    I had heard alcohol and drugs were eliminated as causes or contributing factors of the crash.  I am not saying you said they were, just wanted to clarify whether or not this was a case of drink driving.  I think it's an important factor for people to understand.  


    You Forget (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by squeaky on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 12:28:19 PM EST
    Driving as an immigrant, and a despicable Hmong in this case, is far worse than driving under the influence of drink or drugs..

    Lee was driving his family home from church (none / 0) (#14)
    by Gisleson on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 03:26:58 PM EST
    There have never been any allegations of alcohol or drug use.

    Confronted with a horrible accident for which there was no obvious mechanical/electrical cause, the local prosecutors simply assumed driver error.

    It's also important to understand that Lee was accelerating up a ramp towards THE BUSIEST INTERSECTION IN MINNESOTA. Between 6:30 am and 7 pm there is zero chance of running that light without running into four lanes of heavy traffic. Had Lee not hit other cars on the ramp waiting to turn, the death toll would have been much, much higher.


    1996 Camry is not part of the Toyota recall (none / 0) (#3)
    by ding7777 on Fri Mar 26, 2010 at 09:04:17 PM EST

    Maybe it ought to be (none / 0) (#5)
    by ruffian on Fri Mar 26, 2010 at 10:55:40 PM EST
    worth a look anyway

    Certainly worth a new look in light (none / 0) (#4)
    by ruffian on Fri Mar 26, 2010 at 10:54:40 PM EST
    of recent Toyota problems. Glad to use my FB account for a good cause.

    It is worth it... (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Fri Mar 26, 2010 at 11:23:45 PM EST
    ...especially considering Toyota has been less than forthcoming in their disclosure of the problems with their products.  

    I have no idea what happened in... (none / 0) (#7)
    by Romberry on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 03:15:58 AM EST
    ...Koua Fong Lee's case with his Camry, but the 96 Camry uses a regular old cable actuated throttle linkage which simply can't be a "faulty gas pedal" thing.

    Linkages can certainly stick, and I am not about to say that Mr. Lee had a fair trial or adequate counsel because I simply don't know that he either did or that he didn't. But the recent issues in the news with Toyota are only relevant to his case in that they may serve to get his case re-heard.

    The fact is that the vast majority of cases of unintended acceleration are the result of driver error. Drivers in a panic may believe that they are standing on the brakes with all their might when what they are actually standing on is the gas. Call it wrong pedal panic syndrome.

    I absolutely believe Mr. Lee is being truthful in stating his certainty that he is sure he took his foot off the gas. But just because he is certain does not make it actually so.

    I don't believe all of the Toyota (5.00 / 2) (#15)
    by ruffian on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 03:51:11 PM EST
    issues are with faulty gas pedals. I think there are problems in the electronics and computers that they have yet to totally come clean about.

    Does that deriver panic last long enough (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by ruffian on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 03:54:22 PM EST
    for the car to get up to 90 mph? Not often I would bet. I have had that accidental reaction myself, and noticed and corrected long before the car went from 30 or 40 to 90 mph.  Think about how long you would have to stand on the gas pedal to do that in a normally functioning Camry. They are pretty quick cars, but not that quick.

    Does the cable connect (none / 0) (#8)
    by Rojas on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 08:15:08 AM EST
    to a throttle position sensor?

    I had a 67 mustang that would "sudden accelerate" due to a faulty motor mount. It would only do it in reverse as the torque caused the engine to rotate enough to bind the accelerator linkage.


    that is not true of all Camrys (none / 0) (#9)
    by Gisleson on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 08:56:17 AM EST
    you can find Toyota computerized throttle doodads for models as old as 1991. Can you cite some authority for that because I've read a lot of comments in other forums that said things like this that I simply cannot find verification for.

    sorry (none / 0) (#10)
    by Gisleson on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 08:56:56 AM EST
    I meant to respond to an earlier comment and somehow it ended up down here.

    I think I need some more coffee this morning (none / 0) (#11)
    by Gisleson on Sat Mar 27, 2010 at 09:01:23 AM EST
    reloaded my browser and I guess I did post in the right place.

    Lee testified that he was pumping the brakes as he sped up the exit ramp. I do not think it's possible to panic to the point where you could pump an accelerator and not realize you were hitting the gas.

    There is no proof that driver error is truly to blame for sudden acceleration. All of these prosecutorial pronouncements stem from their inability to diagnose onboard computer malfunctions. Audi dodged a bullet on this one in court, but legal findings are not binding on actual real world situations.

    In a quest for better mileage manufacturers have given computers too much power over our cars. Think about the computer you had in 1994. Would you trust it to manage your car's essential functions?

    This demands a full government investigation and laws need to be passed requiring brakes and throttle to have manual overrides.