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Woman’s Conviction Cleared Due to GM Recall

An East Texas judge cleared a woman of a criminally negligent homicide conviction after details of the GM ignition switch recall came to light. Candice Anderson pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide in October 2007 after the death of her boyfriend, Gene Mikale Erickson, in a fatal accident. This week, a judge in rural Van Zandt county overturned her guilty plea and cleared her record of all charges. The hearing took place in the same courtroom in which she had been indicted, bringing the tragic story full circle.

Details of Fatal Accident

In November 2004, Ms. Anderson was driving a 2004 Saturn Ion, one of the millions of vehicles on the GM recall list, with Mr. Erickson in the front passenger seat. When her vehicle lost power, she lost control and ran head-on into a tree. The airbags failed to deploy and both passengers sustained severe injuries. Ms. Anderson suffered numerous injuries, including a lacerated liver. Mr. Erickson died at the scene. Police investigators found no signs of skid marks or swerving to avoid the tree at the accident site.

Trooper’s Testimony Leads to Charges

Testimony from a state trooper investigating the accident site, along with her history of recreational drug use and traces of Xanax in her system, was enough for a grand jury to indict Ms. Anderson on charges of intoxication manslaughter. A conviction would have resulted in a prison sentence of two to 20 years and fines of up to $10,000. Ms. Anderson agreed to plead guilty to criminally negligent homicide to avoid a lengthy prison term. She served five years on probation and paid more than $10,000 in fines to the state and restitution to Mr. Erickson’s family.

GM Recall Leads to Vindication

Both the police investigator at the site and the district attorney who prosecuted the case against Ms. Anderson submitted statements to the county judge in favor of clearing her of the charges. The district attorney, Mr. Leslie Poynter Dixon, stated that, if the details of the GM recall had been publicly available at the time, the grand jury would likely have not indicted her on the charges.

GM Silent on Anderson Case

When federal safety investigators inquired to GM about the causes of the crash in 2007, the company failed to disclose its knowledge of the faulty ignition switch. The company responded with a June 2007 letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stating that it had not examined the reasons behind the fatal accident. An internal investigation later revealed that a GM engineer had pinned the cause of the crash on the defective ignition switch, but did not relay this information to either the NHTSA or Van Zandt County prosecutors. In a press release after Ms. Anderson’s recent hearing, James Cain, a spokesperson for the automaker, stated that the company had taken a “neutral position” on the Anderson case.

Source: Dallas Morning News

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