Once in a while, life throws a remarkable revelation at you and all you can do is sit there…speechless. I’m excited to share this exoneree of the month story but in order to complete it, I have to share another related substory. However, I’ve decided to keep you in suspense until next month by separating it into two parts. I assure you that both elements add greatly to the telling of this story.
Here’s a brief summary about exoneree, Koua Fong Lee-a Hmong living in Minnesota. His is a catastrophic wrongful conviction case that most in Minnesota are familiar with. Sadly, even now, the details surrounding his exoneration are linked to an ongoing controversy with the Toyota company.
In June of 2006, Mr. Lee and his family were on their way home from church when their 1996 Toyota Camry suddenly accelerated to 90 miles per hour on a St Paul, MN exit ramp and crashed into the back of another car, killing three people. In 2007, he was charged with intentional vehicular homicide and sentenced to eight years in prison. But then two years later, other Toyota drivers complained about “sudden unintentional acceleration” and Toyota began to recall millions of cars, though not the ’96 model. With the help of the Minnesota Innocence Project (IPMN), Mr. Lee’s new Attorney tracked down other drivers who had the same experience with cars similar to his. Based on new evidence and errors by his trial Attorney, Mr. Lee filed a motion for a new trial. The motion went forward and he was exonerated on August 5th 2010 after serving three years of his sentence.
In 2012, I met Mr. Lee and his wife, Pangoua Moua, at a benefit hosted by the Innocence Project of Minnesota. Both are exceptionally humble people with a deep gratitude for the help they received during this perplexing episode in their lives. The relief they feel that the worst is behind them is still evident. I felt privileged to have met them. It’s difficult to place ourselves in the shoes of these people whose lives are ripped apart. But it’s amazing to see how many of them are able to move forward, keeping the nightmares at bay. Knowing that this is not always the case it’s nonetheless, a blessing.
Recently, I researched this case a bit further and stumbled upon another rather important aspect, central to how Mr. Lee’s release came about. It all happened unbeknownst to me even though it was going on in my own back yard. I was astonished as I learned more about the details surrounding Lee’s exoneration. In fact, what was going on in Minnesota with Mr. Lee’s case was similar to what I was actively pursuing in Green Bay, Wisconsin!
And then…another revelation even more startling, dawned on me…