Automotive experts for both sides have now filed reports in the ongoing saga of Koua Fong Lee, a St. Paul Toyota owner serving eight years for a 2006 crash that ultimately killed three people. The new expert opinions, along with Toyota recall information that came to light after Lee's 2007 trial, should be heard by a jury, not simply weighed by the same judge who meted out a strikingly harsh prison sentence to Lee. We strongly believe that justice is best served by granting Lee a new trial.

"You get what you pay for" is the obvious conclusion after reading the reports from the hired guns chosen by each side to examine Lee's 1996 Camry, which was put in storage after his troubling trial. Lee had a clean driving record and had no drugs or alcohol in his system. He maintained that the car had accelerated on its own while he hit the brake. Yet when an inspection by a St. Paul city mechanic found no evidence of brake failure or other causes, even his own attorney admitted that Lee had mistakenly hit the gas instead of the brake. A Ramsey County jury not only agreed but concluded that this was gross negligence -- a sharp judgment for a mistake.

After Toyota's recalls related to sudden acceleration garnered headlines this year, Lee's new attorneys petitioned for a new trial, setting off a round of additional inspections of his badly damaged car, which so far has not been part of the recalls. The same judge who presided over Lee's Ramsey County trial will weigh these reports and rule on a new trial.

Not surprisingly, the expert hired by Lee's attorneys concluded that broken tail light filaments suggested that Lee was braking upon impact, and that a sticky throttle and cruise-control problems could have contributed to the vehicle's speed. Findings from the prosecutors' two experts don't dispute that the brake pedal was depressed, but they correctly point out that the broken filament doesn't indicate how long the brakes were applied. Expert Frank Sonye also laid out the unlikely sequence of equipment failures that would have had to occur for cruise control to override the brakes. A Toyota expert shared skepticism about mechanical explanations for the crash.

Based on the expert findings and other information provided by Lee's attorneys, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said Wednesday that the legal threshold for a new trial based on new evidence has not been met. Gaertner is certainly right when she argues that throwing out a conviction is something to be done only with the greatest of care. At the same time, rarely does a case come along that raises so many troubling questions. The expert findings are opinions only and provide much greater detail than the inspection done for the 2007 trial. A jury should weigh them, along with new information about Toyota recalls, reports of sudden acceleration in 1996 Camrys on file with federal safety officials and affidavits from Toyota drivers gathered by Lee's attorneys. There are also components of the car that have not yet been tested, and there are questions about one of the prosecution's experts, who previously published an article skeptical about sudden-acceleration claims. Was he really the best expert Ramsey County could find?

A new trial, even if a guilty verdict is rendered again, would also give Ramsey County Judge Joanne Smith a chance to revisit Lee's prison sentence, which is far lengthier than others have received for fatal crashes. Earlier this month, a 92-year-old North Dakota woman who killed a newlywed motorcyclist and badly injured another person received a $20 traffic ticket. In May, a Winona man who fell asleep at the wheel after drinking alcohol received 7 1/2 years for a crash that killed five people.

Lee's case raises serious questions about Minnesota's legal system. There's no middle ground in Minnesota for charges in accidents like Lee's; it's either careless driving or criminal vehicular homicide. There's also a disturbing variation in sentencing. A new trial is the best way to dispel fears that Lee's vehicle -- and the judicial system -- malfunctioned.