Thursday, July 17
HOUSTON (AP) — A former Texas prosecutor has asked the state to pardon a woman who pleaded guilty in a 2004 car crash that killed her fiance, saying she now believes the accident was caused by a faulty General Motors ignition switch.
Candice Anderson was driving a 2004 Saturn Ion in November 2004 when the car suddenly veered off a road and ran into a tree in Van Zandt County, southeast of Dallas. Her fiance, Gene Mikale Erickson, who was 25, was killed. Anderson, then 21, was severely hurt.
Because there were no skid marks, authorities believed Anderson was at fault and charged her with negligent homicide. Anderson pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years of probation and 260 hours of community service.
GM has said the faulty switches — which have resulted in 17.1 million vehicles being recalled — have caused 13 deaths. GM spokesman Jim Cain said Wednesday the automaker is not "confirming the identity of any of the accident victims out of respect for their privacy."
But Anderson's attorney, Robert Hilliard, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in May confirmed for Erickson's mother that the crash was caused by a bad switch.
In an email to Rhonda Erickson, Kevin Vincent, chief counsel for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wrote that although his agency "does not have direct information from GM about individual identities, we understand that GM counts Mr. Erickson's death in its list of thirteen deaths."
In a letter written this week to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Leslie Poynter Dixon, a former Van Zandt County district attorney, said she would have dismissed the case against Anderson if she had known about the crash's true cause.
"It is my opinion that no action or omission of Ms. Anderson was the cause of the accident that led to her criminal charges. Had I known at the time that GM knew of these issues and has since admitted to such, I do not believe the grand jury would have indicted her," Dixon wrote.
Dixon, now in private practice, did not immediately return a phone call on Wednesday.
"I feel it is important that, at this point, we come together to do whatever we can to alleviate any further damage and pain that this horrific tragedy caused her," she said in the letter.
Hilliard said Dixon's letter will be one of several he will submit by the end of July to the agency as part of a pardon application.
In a statement, Anderson said the conviction has cost her work and been difficult for her family.
"I've tried to deal with this physically and emotionally for the better part of 10 years. My conviction affects every part of my life past, present, and future," she said. "I pray no one has to ever endure the torture that I have gone through because of actions made within GM again."
Associated Press writer Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this report.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at www.twitter.com/juanlozano70.