CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (December 2, 2014) Today, a Minnesota District Court Judge declared that Koua Fong Lee is eligible for exoneree compensation under local Minnesota law. Four years ago, Mr. Lee was in prison, convicted in 2008 of criminal vehicular manslaughter for a 2006 crash that killed three people. Mr. Lee's 1996 Toyota Camry accelerated wildly into traffic and smashed into another vehicle. Mr. Lee maintained that the brakes did not work on the vehicle, but a jury convicted him and he was sentenced to eight years in prison.
After serving three years of his sentence, drivers across the country began reporting similar problems with Toyota vehicles, and Texas powerhouse attorney Robert C. Hilliard, founding partner of Hilliard Munoz Gonzales, LLP, took action. Mr. Hilliard filed a Motion for New Trial, arguing that newly-discovered evidence surrounding Toyota's mass recalls and the propensity of its vehicles to suddenly and unintentionally accelerate constituted enough evidence to free Mr. Lee. The trial court judge agreed with Mr. Hilliard and granted the Motion for New Trial. The prosecutors decided to drop the case, Mr. Lee was a free man, and his criminal charge was erased.
Now, a judge has determined that â€œ...it is likely that the original complaint or indictment would not have been filed or sought or would have been dismissed with knowledge of all of the circumstances that were ascertained through the post-conviction processâ€ and that Mr. Lee â€œshould receive compensation in the interests of justice . . . .The compensation statute, recently passed by the Minnesota Legislature, allows compensation for people, such as Mr. Lee, who served time behind bars after being wrongfully convicted.
Koua is an inspiration, states his attorney, Mr. Hilliard. Justice was denied to him and his family for so many years. The system worked when our Motion for New Trial was granted and today is evidence that it has worked again. We will continue our efforts to pursue justice for Mr. Lee."
Toyota should be ashamed. They would rather an innocent man rot in prison for years, away from his wife and small children, then own up to their criminal conduct. There is a special place in hell for such evilness," says Mr. Hilliard.
A civil case against Toyota brought by the Lee family and those killed and injured in the crash will go to trial beginning January 7th, 2015 in Minnesota federal court before the Honorable Ann D. Montgomery.