Koua Fong Lee has already been convicted of a crime that wasn't his fault, imprisoned for two and a half years, and exonerated. Now he's about to get paid.
Lee will become the first person to receive compensation from Minnesota under the new Imprisonment and Exoneration Remedies Act that went into effect July 1.
On June 10, 1996, Lee was coming home from church when his Toyota Camry refused to stop coming off of the eastbound I-94 Snelling Avenue exit in St. Paul. Lee's car accelerated uncontrollably into a car parked at a red light, killing three people. He was convicted of criminal vehicular homicide in 2007.
"I tried to stop but the brake was not working, the car just kept going. I tried and tried but I just couldn't stop," Lee said later in an interview with the Minnesota Innocence Project.
Lee spent two and a half years in prison before reports started surfacing about a defect in Toyotas that caused uncontrollable acceleration.
Armed with this new information, Lee's attorneys were able to get him released and exonerated on August 5, 2010, when a judge ordered a new trial and the prosecution decided to drop the charges.
Lee was reunited with his family and went on to get a degree from Inver Hills Community College.
On Monday Judge Joanne Smith signed an order declaring Lee eligible for compensation under a new state law that gives wrongfully imprisoned people between $50,000 and $100,000 per year spent behind bars.
In addition to the payout from the state, Lee also has a pending civil suit against Toyota.