Texas Woman Pleads Guilty To Manslaughter and Later Discovers The Fatal Accident Was Caused By Defective Switch

article-2653639-1E9ECC1B00000578-660_634x356150px-General_Motors.svgThere is an interesting case out of Texas where Candice Anderson is suing General Motors over its defective ignition switches. Anderson, however, has more than the usual damages. She is a convicted felon in the death of her fiancé, Mikale Erickson, in November 2004 when she lost control of her 2004 Saturn Ion in Canton, Texas. While she was not drunk or on drugs, the police could not find a reason for the crash so prosecutors charged her with manslaughter. To avoid a longer sentence, she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years probation as a felon. Later, however, she learned that her case was on GM’s list of accidents caused by their defective cars – no one bothered to tell her.

article-2653639-1E9ED3AF00000578-683_634x363Erickson, the father of two small children, was killed immediately in the crash. Anderson was thrown through the windshield and barely survived. The airbags never deployed — one of the defects that I discussed in an earlier column. Police tested her for alcohol and drugs. She cleared both tests with only a small trace of an anti-anxiety medicine. There were no skid marks or evidence of reckless driving. Nevertheless, faced with no evidence other than the accident, they decided to charge her while she was recovering from her injuries. Faced with the threat of multiple charges and long sentences, she agreed to plead guilty to criminal negligent homicide.

It was Erickson’s mother who learned that her son’s case was one of the 13 fatal crashes blamed on the faulty ignition switches. The defect, as discussed earlier, cut off power, locks the steering, kills the brakes, and disables the airbag.

What is particularly disturbing is that GM knew of the defect and waited ten years, but officials will not only likely escape any criminal charges (unlike Anderson) but have moved to block any liability under a claim of bankruptcy protections.

However, too little attention has been directed at the police and prosecutors in this case. Here you have an accident with no evidence of drug or alcohol influence. No skid marks. However, regardless, she was pressured into a plea. In today’s world with ever-expanding sentencing laws and mandatory minimums, there is enormous pressure to accept a plea to avoid a long prison stint, even if you are innocent. When defendants are later cleared, there is rarely any effort in the media to demand answers from prosecutors or police.

In the end, neither GM nor the prosecutors are likely to be held fully accountable for the case. This case makes citizens look like little more than fodder in both the consumer protection and the criminal justice systems.

Source: CBS

53 thoughts on “Texas Woman Pleads Guilty To Manslaughter and Later Discovers The Fatal Accident Was Caused By Defective Switch

  1. Wow, this is incredibly sad and disturbing. Poor woman, not only does she lose her fiancé but her reputation and freedom (yes I know it was probation). Reminds me of Islamic laws holding rape victims accountable for their rape.

  2. I heard about this last week.

    I can understand the prosecutor escaping punishment, but according to Ms. Anderson’s attorney, GM falsely testified that there were no issues with the car in the civil case. He also alleges that GM was in contact with the district attorney regarding the criminal charges, although he’s not clear as to the details.

    Here’s the interview I saw.


  3. JT wrote “police could not find a reason for the crash so prosecutors charged her with manslaughter”

    That’s Texas, where “innocent until proven guilty” are just words spoken on television dramas.

    “she was not drunk or on drugs … no skid marks or evidence of reckless driving”

    She would never have gone to prison in an enlightened state.

    “What is particularly disturbing is that GM knew of the defect and waited ten years”

    But, but, libertarians constantly tell us that corporations always do the right thing!

  4. “The defect, as discussed earlier, cut off power, locks the steering, kills the brakes, and disables the airbag.”

    Professor Turley,

    You are wrong! The “defect” does not cause the steering to lock, and it does not kill the brakes.

    The “defect” permits the ignition switch to turn off, but does not put the switch into the “Locked” position. With the exception of disabling the airbags, it really isn’t any different that having your engine stop when you run out of gas while traveling down the highway. It takes more effort to steer, and to brake, but it by no means locks the steering or disables the brakes.

    Power steering uses a hydraulic assist of a pump driven by the engine. Engine dies, no more assist. At highway speed, and with a lightweight vehicle, steering is very manageable.

    Power brakes use the vacuum created by the intake manifold to assist the driver in braking. Without the assist, you have to push harder on the brake pedal. Harder, but still very possible.

    The anti-lock brake system would only come into play in emergency braking. You could still stop, you just wouldn’t have a feedback system that tries to prevent the wheels from locking up.

    The majority of the problem is caused by a panic stricken driver, caused primarily by a lack of driving knowhow.

    I used to tow an offshore race boat with my 1963 Ford pickup. It was hard to steer (no power steering) and it was hard to stop (no power brakes). However, like many drivers before the advent of power everything, it wasn’t impossible to drive (as your claim would infer).

  5. Profoundly sad. I wonder how many more stories like this one we will hear. It has sadly become all too familiar.
    I would point out, while trying to remain “apolitical,” I am probably closer to a libertarian. I think rigorous legal action should be in order (where has it been to this point?), not at the hands of of a government agency staffed by the same people who are responsible for a lot of today’s problems. Like the Timmy Geithner and Hank Paulson crowd.

  6. Very disturbing. If you are in highway traffic and lose power, the results could easily be an accident due to cars rear ending you and the sudden loss of the power steering could also make it difficult, but not impossible to steer. GM has a lot of explaining to do, and I hope the bankruptcy defense isn’t successful. And which GM executive(s) is/are going to jail?

  7. Michael Simpson

    Good point. Let us know which individuals violated their oaths and their responsibilities.

  8. Mechanic,
    You are correct (as far as I can determine from a brief search of the tech bulletins) regarding the power steering and brakes not “locking up.” However, I learned to drive long before we had fancy things like power brakes, steering and automatic transmissions. I can attest to the fact that losing power steering or brakes is not anywhere near the equivalent of driving a vehicle without those things in the first place. I have had an engine quit on me a number of times, That was in vehicles with–and without–power steering and brakes. I am 6’3″ and anything but a weakling, and I am here to tell you there is a LOT of difference between trying to wrestle a car with dead power steering and brakes and a car designed to operate without power boost.

    None of us know what Ms. Anderson’s grip strength is. I know that mine is 88 kilograms on a hand dynamometer, so if a car or truck with a dead engine is a handful for me, one can only imagine what it might have been for her. The steering wheel may as well have been set in concrete. As for panic, that is an assumption that can’t be made with our limited knowledge at the present time. Possible, yes. Fact? Who knows.

    Anyway, thanks for your input.

  9. Mechanic,

    Great video. I’d like to add one thing. About those dealership 10 point inspections.

    If the mechanic doesn’t re-clamp the air filter housing and tighten the mass airflow sensor, the car will stall. Sometimes while driving. Similar to the GM ignition problem.
    This has happened in GMs, BMWs, Fords and Nissans that I have driven. I always open the engine hood and check those clamps (among other things) after the car is serviced and ready.

  10. Nick wrote “The bailouts of GM and Chrysler were actually bailouts of the UAW”

    In 2012, the CEOs of GM (Dan Akerson) and Ford (Alan Mulally) earned, respectively, $9.1 million and $21 million. The other corporate officers earned less, but not that much less. There are so many levels of management in Detroit that salaries added up to really big bucks.

    The Detroit automakers had two financial problems: the UAW and management.

  11. MECHANIC unless you drove one of the cars with the faulty switch and had it happen to you how can you claim what does or doesnt happen? with that said how can you tell Mr Turley he is wrong?

    or maybe you work at gm and are one of those who knew about the faulty switch from the beginning and decided to ignore the problem because it would cost to much money to repair the switch and cars?

    see how it works when you assume you know everything without having RIGHT AND EXACT INFORMATION.


  12. I remember a case here where an attorney dropped his cell phone while driving and the police and prosecutor did not buy it (he was an early adapter) and he is still do time for vehicular manslaughter.

  13. This could get interesting, but you know since prosecutors get points for convictions they are not going to back down on this. And let us not forget all the parents put through hell before they figured out ‘crib deaths’ and the prosecutors charged them with child abuse.

  14. Saucy, TWO automakers had management and UAW problems. Ford and the UAW worked wisely together for years and Ford needed no bailout. The taxpayers of this country were required to reward the negative behavior of GM, Chrysler and the UAW. Rewarding negative behavior is bad parenting and bad governing.

  15. Nick wrote “TWO automakers had management and UAW problems”

    I think we are in violent agreement. I just wanted to point out that management makes obscene salaries for poor performance. I was too lazy to verify which automakers received bailouts.

    Don’t get me started on bailouts. We had a chance to intervene (in the FDIC sense) every bank which was in trouble. We allowed ourselves to be halted because Paulson and Geithner were buddies with the bankers; also because we swallowed the lie that, because banks were international, we could not just take them over. Teddy Roosevelt would not have hesitated, but then again, he was a better president than Clinton, Bush II, and Obama put together.

  16. This brings to mind the paradox of Lois Lerner being a “red flag” that will trigger

    an AUDIT of the IRS.

    An AUDIT of the IRS. Damn! Thank you, Lois.

    Turnabout is fair play.

  17. How about the engineer who designed the switches and the executives that did not pursue the problems with the switches serve time in prison. How about they pay this woman a large sum of money out of their income to make her as whole as is possible after the ordeal she went through?

  18. I wonder how many Turley blog participants and observers bought, read, studied, and put into routine daily use the information in Sidney Dekker’s book, “Drift into Failure: From Hunting Bad Components to Understanding Complex Systems,” Ashgate, 2010?

    I know of one person who observes, and sometimes posts comments to, the Turley blog who bought, read, studied, and put into routine daily use the information in Dekker’s book.

    I am that person.

    Am I effectively as though alone here?

  19. J. Brian – Over my lifetime I have read literally several tons of books (had to weigh some of them when I moved to a two-story to see if the flooring to take the weight [it couldn’t]) but that is not one of them. If it helps I have read Sun Tzu, Mao, Marx, The Prince, Cellini, Grant, Caesar, etc.



    Progressives, socialists, democrats, collectivists, communists and Marxists
    are all the same.

    Progressives MADE them too big to fail. They think they can overtax, control the economy, regulate, print currency that isn’t backed by gold, manipulate markets, set wages and spend, spend, spend. They can’t. Only Mr. Market can do that stuff.

    GM would have been carved up long ago by good and natural capitalists. You might just call capitalists, naturalists. GM didn’t get a bailout from capitalism, it got a bailout from corrupt politicians and corrupt corporatists.

    Markets are dynamic, they rise and fall like the tide; like the sun; like rain. You have to prepare for the cycles of capitalism and insure against damage and loss, like one does for earthquakes and tornadoes. Capitalism isn’t evil. It’s natural. It is good.

    Progressives are evil and practice with malicious aforethought. The evil part is that they know they aren’t smarter but they let you think they are.

    Progressives think they are smarter than market forces. They aren’t. It’s just that they buy votes by giving away taxpayer dollars. De Tocqueville told us to be wary of one man, one vote democracy; it’ll get its hands into the cookie jar. It did. Just because politicians can give away tax dollars and secure the votes of common folks, doesn’t mean they are intelligent, capable, motivated, strong and imbued with business acumen. It means they are insidious and slick, like “Slick Willy” and “Hilly.”

    Capitalists employ “constant quality control.” Soon after a business stops generating earnings, it gets liquidated and other companies buy the assets and redeploy them. Capitalism constantly corrects itself.

    Parasites don’t like capitalism because they want free stuff and that’s entirely understandable…it doesn’t create wealth and its selfish but parasitism is entirely understandable.

  21. Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be,

    There will be an answer, let it be.

    “Let It Be” March 1970

    John Winston Lennon – Paul James McCartney

    Capitalism is nature.

    Capitalism has the answers.

    Let it be.

  22. Mechanic,

    Your argument is not only flawed it is irrevocably failed. The subject of this article is a demonstrably “challenged” woman (she plead as an innocent party) attempting to operate a vehicle. She was not concerned with the technical aspects you recite, she assumed and fully expected simple and easy operability. She was surprised and overwhelmed when that functionality failed. She was assisted by the “assists” you referred to and incompetent when she lost them. You are assigning your own level of competence to her.

  23. Pete,

    Thank you for conceding the facts, the truth and the debate.

    That was really easy; exhilarating and really easy.

  24. I agree with Chuck Stanley regarding the problem with Mechanics claim. As someone who drove cars pre-power steering and power brakes, driving a new car that loses power assist isn’t remotely the same as driving an old car designed for steering and braking without power. The former is far more difficult to steer and brake than the latter. Not even close to a the same.

  25. I grew up when power steering was your arms and power brakes were you feet jammed on the pedal. I have had a car lose power and it is almost impossible to control.

  26. Why are most, if not all defendants threatened with worst sentences if they do not confess their guilt to the court when they are innocent?

  27. I believe there is a pattern in Texas. Woman are over charged with felonies, told to plead guilty or face more time, and then sit in prison for crimes they didn’t even commit. The Federal Government should audit TX women’s prisons and shine a light on what is really going on down there.

  28. Why in the world are people still buying GM cars!? http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_25983374/gm-sales-car-values-steady-despite-recalls. It blows my mind.

    That is really the only thing we as consumers have left to fight back with – our dollars. Yet sales at GM are up? Baffling. What an example being set for other car manufacturers. And don’t get me wrong, I am not naive enough to think that all manufacturers don’t do this sort of thing to some degree, but this was a clear cover-up for over 10 years!

  29. People don’t buy GM cars. People are given GM cars. GM makes offers, budget buyers can’t refuse. If they can’t fool you with financing and trade-in value, they will compel you with price. The comingling of government and corporations.

    Now that they’re Government Motors, they’ll probably start printing money (non-gold backed notes) to give you to buy their cars with. It’s the monetary incest of “the-Constitution-has-evolved” Ben Bernanke’s quantitative easing which employs the “money changer” brilliance that got Bernie Madoff a reservation at Club Fed (aka “Ponzi”), issue the bonds and print the money to buy them with.

    Let’s ask Mullah Obama. He seems to be in on everything…or not. He splained that Taliban release and Benghazi really well. Does Mullah Obama “See The USA In A Chevrolet?”

  30. Agree that this is kind of a lazy article. You rightly note that the prosecutor should be held accountable for putting charging an innocent person without even a shred of evidence suggesting a crime, yet you don’t name that prosecutor. And yet you do name the victim! If we want to get dirty prosecutors like this off the streets and ideally in jail where they belong, a good start would be for the media to bother to tell us who they actually are.

  31. Mechanic,
    IIf I analyze your pitch, I’d say that without a doubt that you are, in some capacity, an agent or supporter of GM/UAW. The facts that you cite are totally off.

    #1. Steering on a non power assisted vehicle varies with the model, and is more leveraged in a non power assisted design. You face nearly double the amount of resistance without engine power, thus making steering very difficult if not impossible to some (you lack enough factors to make an intelligent claim here).

    #2. Power brakes, the same argument as in the power steering above.

    #3. No airbags. This would certainly have been a factor, as to have preventing a death and or injury.

  32. She should get a lawyer to sue them civily, then get her conviction vacated. Imagine how many deaths can be prevented because of the attention her case would bring publicly!!!

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