A woman who has been racked with guilt over the death of her boyfriend for a decade was finally vindicated last Monday. New York Times reports that Candice Anderson was cleared of the death when it was determined that General Motors’ ignition switch defect was responsible for the fatal accident that occurred 10 years ago.
The crash occurred in November 2004, when Ms. Anderson was driving her 2004 Saturn Ion with her boyfriend Gene Mikale Erickson in the passenger seat. She inexplicably lost control of the vehicle and crashed into the tree and Mr. Erickson died at the scene. She pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide, but NYT reports that the Mr. Erickson’s death is actually a result of GM’s faulty ignition switch, which can cause cars to switch out of the “run” position unexpectedly, disabling numerous features.
“It’s overwhelming; it’s a range of emotions,” Ms. Anderson told NYT in a telephone interview after the hearing. “I’m elated. Things are upside down. Or, really, right-side up.”
Million of cars, including Anderson’s Saturn Ion, are affected by the ignition switch recall. So far, the defect has been linked to 35 deaths. GM has come under intense scrutiny for failing to report the issue for over a decade.
NYT reports that the automaker conducted an internal review of Anderson’s crash in May 2007, five months after she pleaded guilty. The company quietly decided that the car was responsible, but never notified Ms. Anderson or law enforcement officials. When federal safety regulators asked what caused the crash in a death inquiry, GM did not report the role of the faulty ignition switch. A GM engineer found that power to the car had most likely been cut off, but a month after this discovery GM incorrectly told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it has not analyzed the cause of the crash.
The company publicly acknowledged that the crash was linked to the defective ignition switch in a letter from GM’s lawyers; this letter as submitted by Anderson’s lawyers to the district judge in Van Zandt County, Texas.
“At the time, unbeknownst to Ms. Anderson or my office, there were issues regarding her 2004 Saturn Ion,” said Ms. Poynter Dixon, the district attorney who prosecuted Anderson, in a letter in July. “Had I known at the time that G.M. knew of these issues and has since admitted to such, I do not believe the grand jury would have indicted her for intoxication manslaughter.”