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Man Freed From Prison In Toyota Acceleration Case

Panghoua Moua, Koua Fong Lee

Koua Fong Lee was embraced by his wife, Panghoua Moua, outside the Ramsey County jail moments after learning that he would not be retried. Tom Weber/MPR hide caption

itoggle caption Tom Weber/MPR

A man serving an eight-year Minnesota prison for killing three people with his car despite his claims that the vehicle had accelerated out of control was freed Thursday, as a judge accepted Toyota's unintended acceleration problems as important new evidence requiring a retrial.

But the county prosecutor indicated she wouldn't retry the case, making Koua Fong Lee, 32, a free man after he had already served four years of his sentence.

Minnesota Public Radio's Madeleine Baran and Tim Nelson had details:

"I'm happy that the judge made the right decision," said Panghoua Moua, Lee's wife, speaking outside the Ramsey County courthouse. "I'm so happy, just happy that he'll be home."

Shortly after the judge's decision, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner announced that prosecutors will not pursue a new trial...

... Lee has always maintained that he tried to brake, but that his 1996 Toyota Camry suddenly accelerated, ramming into the stopped cars. Millions of newer Toyotas have been recalled this year because of sudden acceleration problems. Lee's attorneys have argued that Lee's car had a similar problem, even though Camrys from that year weren't a part of the recent recalls.

Judge Joanne Smith cited several reasons for her decision to grant a new trial, including new information that was uncovered since the original trial. Smith cited the testimony of 11 drivers who reported unintended acceleration, and said that the prosecution's expert was mistaken about whether or not Lee's car had an anti-lock braking system.

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