Monday, August 9, 2010

All the news....

We have just returned from a week at Star Lake in north-central Minnesota. The weather was fabulous, the resort wonderful, and the fishing fun if not very productive. We had no radio, television, or internet for the week...just the relaxed, away-from-it-all setting we wanted. Did we miss important news? You be the judge.

Family news. Monday evening as we sat in the boat on a very quiet lake, Peter's cell phone rang. It was Augie reporting with great pride, "I went poop in the potty." Given his past stubbornness on the matter, we are eager to provide all the encouragement and positive reinforcement we can muster. The next evening, "I wore big-boy underwear all day and it stayed dry." And the evening after that, "I wore big-boy underwear all night and it was dry when I got up." So each day, Peter congratulated him and celebrated this great progress, and then had a detailed conversation with Mommy about poop and pee. Since Mommy was also looking after our aging cat, there was additional talk about poop and pee of the feline variety.

To anyone on the lake overhearing these conversations, the subject matter must have been funny, disgusting, or at least odd. But we saw and heard other people, also fishing, also on cell phones. Iit made us laugh and shake our heads. At our old family cabin, we had no phone at all...no way to call in or out in case of emergency.  Now we're up-to-the-minute even in the wilderness.

Non-news. Five days into our vacation we had a meal out, at a bar and restaurant where the TV was tuned to ESPN. After five days without news, the one story we heard was: Bret Favre still isn't saying whether he will play for the Minnesota Vikings this year.They repeated this every 10 minutes, as if it meant something.

Good news. Once we emptied our suitcases and put away all the stuff we hauled north, we took a quick look at a few of the newspapers on the kitchen table. One headline jumped out: "A FREE MAN." Beneath, a photo of Koua Fong Lee. Whatever else happened in the world last week (and I haven't yet really caught up), this is wonderful news for me. Koua Fong Lee is a 32-year-old father of four who was serving an eight-year prison sentence for vehicular homicide. Driving his family home from church in a Toyota a few years ago, he came up a freeway ramp and began shouting that the brakes would not work. The car accelerated, striking that of a family stopped for a light; people in that car were badly injured and three died. Lee always maintained that he had been pounding on the brakes, and his family witnessed this, but his attorney decided it would be more persuasive to say he must have mistakenly stepped on the accelerator. Lee was found guilty and sent to prison two years and seven months ago. .
 
AP Photo/Pioneer Press, Ben Garvin
Daughter Number Three brought the case back to my attention with an initial post about the fact that investigators were taking a new look at his car, and a powerful update that prompted me to follow developments more closely. It seemed clear that even if Mr. Lee had mistakenly stepped on the gas, the charges and the sentence far exceeded those in more egregious cases. New reports were emerging about accidents attributed to Toyotas' acceleration problems.Then issues arose about irregularities in the trial itself. Public support grew for a new trial. A hearing on the evidence was granted. And last week, at the end of that four-day hearing, the same judge who had sentenced him ruled that his trial had been flawed in several ways and that he deserved a new day in court. He was still trying to comprehend this victory when word came that the county attorney would not retry the case. He was free to return home, to his wife and four young children. In her most recent post, Daughter Number Three says, "Let's hope something has been learned from all of this."

Future news. There is much to be learned. The case is likely to influence similar accident cases around the country. Meanwhile there are big questions about some actions of the county attorney's office, and about the trial that found Koua Fong Lee guilty despite lack of evidence. There are untold stories--still developing--of the families directly affected by the accident (the family of those killed in the accident supported Lee's request for a new trial, by the way). I hope good people will investigate and report on all aspects of this case, so our community can learn the necessary lessons. But meanwhile I celebrate that a man I never met is at home with his family tonight.

16 comments:

Linda Myers said...

Poop and pee - great topics!

CatLadyLarew said...

Hooray for poop! And hooray for freedom for Koua Fong Lee! I'm also glad to hear you had a restful week. I spent many summers not catching any fish on Long Lake (near Park Rapids) and remember them fondly!

IndigoWrath said...

Hey Nancy! Glad you had a goodie at the lake. And as we all know, fishing doesn't have to be productive; it encourages a lot of sitting still and relaxing, which is always good. Indigo

Jeanie said...

Yea for Augie.....that is a major milestone.
I also found Mr. Lee's story compelling and hope something has been learned from it.
I'm glad you had a good time away.

Abby said...

Funny, that was the one headline that grabbed my attention, too, and I actually stayed at your house longer to read the article! Such good news.

I actually had a dream last night that Augie peed and pooped all over the house ~ what do you suppose that means?

Teresa Evangeline said...

Hurray for Augie! It's so sweet that he shared the big news. And, I, too, was very happy for The Lee family. I am always very grateful when our judicial system recognizes mistakes and makes them right. How wonderful for his children especially.

DJan said...

Somehow I had missed that story about Lee, so it's very good news to see that sometimes justice does win out. But it also makes me wonder about all those innocent people who are still locked up because nobody would listen to them.

Welcome back, BTW, and of course everybody has a cell phone these days... it's weird, isn't it?

Ms Sparrow said...

I was overjoyed to see Koua released. The happiness on his face when he walked out of that court just melts your heart. I wish him and his family much happiness!

Far Side of Fifty said...

Way to go Augie! Hope the kitty faired as well! Star Lake near Dent is a little more than an hour away from us..beautiful area! Cell phones, I hear them ringing everywhere. I gave up on the local and national news.. seemed it was all bad news anyway:)

Deb Shucka said...

It is amazing what we don't miss when we step out of the stream for a bit, and what strikes us when the stream finds us anyway.

What a wonderful story about the Lee family.

gayle said...

Great job to the little man!! We had several of the same conversations with ours!
Hope you had a great vacation!

Cheryl said...

Knew nothing about this. Wow. This is great news. So's the poop and dry big boy underwear. Welcome home!

Leah Rubin said...

Your time at the lake sounds idyllic... Love that you got to go!

Hats off to Augie! An achievement to be proud of for sure!

We heard the story of this man and his odyssey on the NBC Nightly News, and were similarly gratified to learn of the outcome. It was also of particular interest to me that the family members of the victim were so supportive of his release. Yay-- justice was served, even if rather delayed...

grammy said...

We loved our time in the Mountains....with no cell reception. We left info as to where we could be found in case of emergency (o: Been back two and a half days and still don't think I am adjusted to the real world. I did love seeing the Grands (o:
So glad he was sent home from prison....raw deal. Scary to think that could be any of us.

Allyson said...

Welcome back! I don't mind to say I'm a little jealous of your special spot that allows you to COMPLETELY unplug. It doesn't really occur to us to take a vacation like that. I love history so we always end up going somewhere with a lot of history, which is usually a city, and they usually have Internet/phone/TV. But thinking about unplugging for a day, sounds glorious.

I hadn't heard the story of this guy released from prison. I think it is a wonderful story that will have very interesting results. For example, what will he do with his life now that he's free? Go back to work? Go to law school? Drink bourbon in the dark all day?

And I'm SOOO over the Brett Favre thing. Seriously. Like Tiger Woods. Over it.
Glad to see you back!

California Girl said...

Sounds like a lovely vacation. We leave tomorrow for a lake in Maine and I'm soooo looking forward to it. We are a waterski and wakeboard bunch but we stay away from the fishermen. There are two canoes at the lake house we're renting so husband and I should have some tranquil time together.

I did hear about that poor man yesterday on the news. It always breaks my heart to hear of people wrongly convicted like the man in jail for rape & murder of a young girl. DNA proved he didn't do it after he spent 33 years in prison.

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