Released: Koua Fong Lee

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Koua and his wife after the trial via the Star Tribune

If you haven't heard - this Thursday - Koua Fong Lee was released, and while I've wondered in the past how one person could get that much time from an accident where there was no drinking or substances involved, coming to my own conclusions about the overhaul that's needed not just in our justice systems but in the courts of public opinion - it's finally over.

Koua Fong Lee always said he was innocent, even as he sat in a Lino Lakes prison cell. And Thursday, after an extraordinary day in Ramsey County District Court, his four-year ordeal in the justice system ended abruptly, and he emerged a free man.

Lee grabbed his attorney Bob Hilliard in a tight hug as District Judge Joanne Smith ruled he was entitled to a new trial and could be freed. His jaw dropped and he sobbed when Hilliard and fellow attorney Brent Schafer told him, "It's over," just moments after he walked out of jail. Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner had announced that her office would not seek a retrial.
And what's great to see too - as the new evidence was presented in court - was how the families who once couldn't believe Lee's story, are now hoping to keep in touch with him - and I have to wonder how this story - for some encompassing their lives on a day to day basis, and others, watching from the sides - how this might help change perceptions - those first few thoughts that come into some people's minds as they look at Asian Americans in the justice system.