In 2006, a 1996 Camry slammed into another car, killing 3. Its driver said he was trying to stop, but was convicted.
Koua Fong Lee hopes the recent massive Toyota recall will lead to his release from prison.
In 2008, Lee was sentenced to eight years in prison in connection with a high-speed crash that led to the deaths of three people in 2006. Now his attorney Brent Schafer wants Lee's 1996 Toyota Camry re-examined in light of the acceleration issues that prompted the current Toyota recall of more recent models.
Since November, Toyota has recalled nearly 8.5 million vehicles for problems that include floor mats that can entangle the gas pedal, gas pedals that can stick, causing sudden acceleration, and braking problems. The earliest model involved in the recent Toyota recalls is from 2005.
Shafer said the investigation into the accident and the trial focused on the car's brakes. Its accelerator should now be examined to determine whether it had some or all of the accelerator mechanisms involved in the most recent recall, Shafer said.
Lee swerved twice to avoid cars at a busy intersection as he exited Interstate 94 and repeatedly pumped what he believed were the brakes before the crash, his attorney, Tracy Eichhorn-Hicks said during the trial. "He was making every effort to stop," Eichhorn-Hicks said, adding that Lee's father, his brother, his pregnant wife and 4-year-old daughter were in the car with him at the time of the crash.
Witnesses and accident reconstruction experts estimated Lee was going 72 to 91 mph when he hit the other cars.
After the accident, mechanics found the brakes worked fine. Eichhorn-Hicks said Lee probably hit the gas instead of the brakes on the exit ramp.
The 1996 Toyota Camry has been the subject of at least seven recalls, most for issues around lighting or reflectors. But in January 1996, a recall was issued because cruise control systems in some 1996 Camrys were failing to hold the speed set by the driver and had the potential to accelerate above the intended speed. It's not known whether Lee's car had a similar problem.
Shafer said it appears that the Camry Lee was driving is still in the St. Paul Police Department's impound lot. On Wednesday, he informed St. Paul police, the Ramsey County Attorney and Ramsey County District Court that he intends to seek a court order to re-examine the car.
Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788