Toyota recalls may help free jailed Camry owner
Koua Fong Lee, freed by Toyota?
Call it the Toyota defense.
The spate of recent recalls from the Japanese automaker could reverse a Minnesota man's conviction for vehicular homicide in a 2006 accident where his Toyota Camry accelerated and crashed into another car, leaving three dead, ABC News reported.
Koua Fong Lee, 32, claimed his accelerator got stuck on that day in June 2006 when his 1996 Camry accelerated to more than 70 miles per hour and crashed into the other car, killing three members of the same family. The jury did not believe Lee's story, however, and sentenced the Hmong refugee from Laos to eight years in prison.
"There is a terrible wrong here, and there is an innocent man in prison," Brent Schafer, Lee's lawyer told ABC News.
Toyota has recalled nearly 8.5 million vehicles over mechanical problems since November. One of the most dangerous issues: floor mats that could get entangle the gas pedal, potentially causing sudden acceleration.
Lee's lawyers are pushing for an inspection of the car, which was manufactured well before the models recalled by Toyota. The county prosecutor has since told ABC News that the prosecution would welcome an inspection of the car to see if mechanical problems were a factor.
After the accident, mechanics found the brakes were in working order, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. But that doesn't rule out the recall issue, says Lee's lawyer.
"I am so sad," Lee told ABCNews.com in a prison interview. "To the victims' family and everybody else, this was not something I intended to happen," he said through a translator. "I tried to avoid this situation to the best of my abilities."