Candice Anderson has lived with this wrongful conviction for too long, Anderson's attorney Bob Hilliard said. GM allowed the victim to be convicted. Now, on the day of the hearing to prove it was GM and not Candice, GM admits what it has known since 2004.
Source: The Wall Street Journal by Jeff Bennett
A Texas woman who pleaded guilty to criminal negligent homicide and has lived the past 10 years believing she killed her finance in a car accident had her conviction set aside hours after General Motors Co. confirmed the vehicle she was driving was among those recalled for a faulty ignition switch.
Judge Teresa Drum cleared Candice Anderson of the death of Gene Erickson, 25, Monday during a hearing in Van Zandt County, Texas. Hours before, a GM attorney sent an email to her lawyer saying "the crash involving Ms. Anderson is one in which the recall condition may have caused or contributed to the frontal air bag non-deployment in the accident".
This was the first time GM publicly linked the accident to the ignition switch flaw. Earlier this year, the auto maker told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the death was linked to 13 fatalities it attributed to the ignition switch flaw. However, the information was never released to the public.
"This is a day that will change my life and my future," Ms. Anderson, 31, said when contacted by telephone. "I have had to experience all of these different emotions all these years and they have scared me. This helps lift the weight off my shoulders."
GM recalled 2.5 million vehicles earlier this year after determining that too much weight or a jarring of the ignition can move the ignition switch from "run" to "accessory," thereby cutting power to the air bags and electric steering.
On Nov. 15, 2004, Ms. Anderson was driving her 2004 Saturn Ion down a Texas road when she lost control and hit a tree. She and Mr. Erickson weren't wearing seat belts at the time. A subsequent police investigation found Ms. Anderson had a trace amount of Xanax in her system. She was later indicted by a grand jury but she agreed to a lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide. Ms. Anderson was fined and sentenced to five years probation.
"Candice Anderson has lived with this wrongful conviction for too long," Anderson's attorney Bob Hilliard said. "GM allowed the victim to be convicted. Now, on the day of the hearing to prove it was GM and not Candice, GM admits what it has known since 2004."
Ms. Anderson said she has no plans at this time to pursue GM legally, although she may make a claim with the auto maker's compensation fund.
"I am ready to move forward," she said.
GM said in a statement the issues being discussed in this case "are for local law enforcement and the courts to consider, and in a courtroom they are separate issues from the performance of the vehicle. That's why we have taken a neutral position on Ms. Anderson's case. It is appropriate for the court to determine the legal status of Ms. Anderson."
Separately, the GM ignition switch compensation fund increased the official death toll to 35 people. Compensation expert Ken Feinberg is reviewing the claims and determining which are eligible. The fund has received 225 death claims as of Friday. A total of 33 were declared ineligible, 77 are deficient, 29 are under review and 51 have no supporting documentation. The fund has also confirmed 49 serious injuries.