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. 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.

  2. 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.


  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. The bailouts of GM and Chrysler were actually bailouts of the UAW.

  6. 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.

  7. Michael Simpson

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

  8. 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?

  9. 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.

  10. “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).

  11. 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!

  12. 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.


  13. 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.

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