How do you plead? Toyota Defense, your honour!
David Booth in The Fast Lane
A 1996 Toyota Camry Sedan, similar to the one driven by Mr. Lee.
I suppose we should have seen it coming. I mean, it has been there, right in front of our collective faces, since last November. Indeed, considering the sorry state of American jurisprudence, it was only a matter of time before some ambulance chaser cooked up the "Toyota Defense."
Yup, a Minnesota man, Koua Fong Lee, has been freed, pending a possible re-trial to his 2007 vehicular homicide conviction, because he was driving, you guessed it, a Toyota Camry. Never mind that his 1996 sedan was not part of Toyota's recent recall. Or the fact that the American National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently concluded that most drivers in "runaway acceleration" cases failed to apply their brakes (in its investigation of 58 Toyotas involved in crashes, on-board recorders showed that 35 did not apply the brakes at all, the brake and gas pedal were applied simultaneously in one instance and, in another nine, the brakes were applied too late in the crash sequence). Nonetheless, defense attorneys were able to present multiple witnesses at the appeal who claimed they had similar instances of runaway acceleration in Camrys like Mr. Lee's.
Whatever the cause, this accident has been one of the most tragic in a story laced with tragedy. Mr. Lee lost control of his '96 Camry on an off-ramp, accelerated to as much as 145 km/h, ran two stop signs, collided with one vehicle before ramming into Javis Adams's Oldsmobile Ciera with what the one survivor deemed the "impact of a bomb." Mr. Adams and his 10-year-old son were killed immediately; his seven-year-old niece, Devyn Bolton, died later of complications from the accident.
Is this something to expect in the near future?
That Mr. Lee did not mean to cause the contretemps is all but certain. It's impossible to listen to his interview with ABC News' chief investigative correspondent, Brian Ross, without being moved. Accompanying Mr. Lee on his return from church were his then-pregnant wife, his father and his daughter, making intent a very unlikely scenario. Neither drugs nor alcohol were a factor.
Nonetheless, Mr. Lee's success at convincing Judge Joanne Smith that there was reasonable doubt as to his culpability as a result of what he was driving could open up a legal quagmire. Will the "unintended acceleration" defense spread beyond Minnesota? Will driving a Toyota prove a proverbial "get out of jail free" card?
Will the Crips and Bloods forsake their Mac-10s and Uzis, relying instead on the Camry defense, drive-by shootings becoming, the far-more-simple, but equally lethal, drive-by. "Man, it was off da hook. I was just cruising, ya know, mindin' my own business when, suddenly, ya know, the car took off. Dude, there was nothing I could do. I didn't mean to blip off those [eight rival drug dealers]."
How prepared are you and your car for spring?
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- 67 %Winter tires are off tune-up has been done and I'm set to take on the hot season!
- I've been procrastinating getting my winter tires put off. This weekend, I promise!
- I'm daydreaming of warmer days and to protest winter, I'm driving my convertible.
- Excited, see you around!