ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Attorneys for Koua Fong Lee called several witnesses Monday who claim their Toyota Camrys experienced sudden acceleration problems.
A Ramsey County judge will determine if Lee, who was convicted of criminal vehicular homicide for a 2006 crash that killed three people, should get a new trial.
Lee has always maintained he stepped on the brake of his '96 Camry, but the car would not stop. Prosecutors argued during his trial that he must have stepped on the accelerator.
On Monday, several witnesses who owned '95 or '96 Camrys testified that they experienced similar problems with their cars.
"I just don't see why he should be sitting in prison," said Kurt Thomson, of Stillwater, after he testified that his '96 Camry accelerated to 45 miles an hour last August, even though he was pressing the brake.
"I had both feet on the brake pedal and my hand were gripping the steering wheel, and I was pushing so hard that it raised my butt off the seat," Thomson said.
Thomson testified that he eventually rear-ended another car because he could not stop. There was no damage to either vehicle and no one was hurt.
When asked if he might have accidentally stepped on the accelerator, Thomson said, "Not a chance."
Kiersten Jaeger, of St. Paul, also testified that her '96 Camry suddenly accelerated on five different occasions earlier this year.
"I thought I was going to hit somebody," she said when discussing one of the episodes.
The '95 and '96 Camrys were not a part of Toyota's recent recalls for vehicles experiencing sudden acceleration problems.
Prosecutors have long argued that Lee should not get a new trial just because other drivers have experienced sudden acceleration issues. They argue their experts, who recently re-inspected Lee's car, have found no problems with the vehicle.
Dozens of supporters of 32-year-old Koua Fong Lee rallied outside prior to the hearing before District Judge Joanne Smith, while friends, family and family of those killed in the crash packed the courtroom.
The hearing is expected to last a few days. Lee's attorneys still need to call more witnesses when the hearing resumes Tuesday afternoon, then the prosecution will call its witnesses.
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