Media coverage of the recent General Motors recalls has made headlines for the deaths and injuries caused by the undisclosed defects. But at least one person who drove one of the recalled cars has been serving a criminal sentence for negligent homicide.
Now that the defects have been disclosed, the attorney who prosecuted the woman and a senator are calling for a pardon, saying that she should never have been charged with a crime.
In 2004 the woman was driving one the cars involved in the recall, a Saturn Ion, when she ran off the road and hit a tree. Her fiancé died in the crash. The prosecutor who charged her at the time says that the evidence now shows that the defect caused the car to seize up, leaving the driver without steering.
The GM investigation revealed that some of the cars involved in the recall had a faulty ignition switch that could malfunction and cut off the car’s power. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has notified the mother of the man killed that the bad switch caused the crash.
The woman’s attorney has said that he will ask for a pardon, based upon the former prosecutor’s statement that she would have dropped the charges against her had she been aware of the car’s propensity to malfunction.
The woman who was convicted blames GM for the difficulties she has suffered over the last decade and for the long-term consequences that may continue as a result of her guilty plea.
The American justice system prides itself on its “innocent until proven guilty” principles in criminal court, but it is difficult for the criminal justice system in Kentucky and other U.S. states to function correctly without a clear picture of all the facts.
This woman’s situation represents an extreme case which required a federal investigation into a major U.S. manufacturer to bring her justice after the fact.
Source: Detroit News, "Senator wants GM to back pardon for woman in ignition switch crash," David Shepardson, July 16, 2014