Sunday, March 7, 2010

Let Koua Fong Lee Go

The car hit by Koua Fong Lee
The Koua Fong Lee car crash in St. Paul a few years ago was heart-rending. In it, Lee's 1996 Camry accelerated off I-94 onto a crowded off-ramp where dozens of cars were waiting for a light. He was going 80-plus miles an hour when he finally stopped by colliding with the Adams family's car, killing or severely injuring everyone inside it.

Why did he do it? Lee's own family was in his car as they headed home from church, so clearly it wasn't intentional. Drugs and alcohol were quickly eliminated as factors. Everyone homed in on the fact that Lee was a relatively inexperienced driver, so he must have had his foot on the gas, even though he insisted he was pushing the brakes for all they were worth.

Now, of course, they're pulling Lee's car out of the impound lot to see if it has the Toyota acceleration problem. (See the Star Tribune article here.)

But my question is, Why was Lee found guilty of criminal vehicular homicide and sentenced to 8 years in prison in the first place? Everyone agreed he didn't do anything on purpose, and negligence wasn't even the issue, as far as I can tell. What good does it do to put someone away, on the state's tab, in these circumstances?

I know that people were killed. But does ruining this guy's life and that of his young family (wife and four kids under 10, now on welfare) really compensate the survivors of the dead? The jurors interviewed for the Strib sidebar make it sound as though they couldn't consider anything but prison time: "If we had gone with a lesser offense, it was basically 'a slap on the hand. It was almost nothing,' he said. 'Yet we didn't want him to go to prison [for years].' "

The justice system is not supposed to be about revenge. It's supposed to prevent further crime and, ideally, rehabilitate the guilty. Neither purpose is served in this case. If it were my family killed in similar circumstances, I think I would say the same thing.

5 comments:

Ms Sparrow said...

They should definitely set him free no matter what! There are dangerous murderers, child molesters and rapists serving less time than he got. The poor guy really got a "bum rap"!

FREE FONG LEE!

Blythe said...

While I see no problem with incarcerating drivers who cause accidents while they are under the influence, the verdict in this case makes no sense. The collective decision making by juries can easily be contaminated and less than objective. This is a sad case of that.

elena said...

Tragic on so many levels. I agree with the points you make.

BadAndy said...

Please help us Free Koua Fong Lee. I started this Facebook page supporting his right to a fair trial where all the evidence is presented to the jury. We are over 3000 fans please tell your friends!!!! http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/pages/FREE-KOUA-FONG-LEE/344703313820?ref=mf

Daughter Number Three said...

Thanks, BadAndy.