With the Toyota trial coming up Nov. 3rd in Minneapolis, I have been reflecting on Koua’s original trial in 2007 when tragic, crucial mistakes and oversights costed Koua his freedom. One thing I didn’t hear the media talk much about back then was Koua Fong Lee, the man. Even though I wrote in my book, A Road To Freedom, about who Koua is, I’d like to take a moment and write about him here.
Koua speaks five languages and received a college degree this summer. He volunteered every day at church for a year after he was freed in 2010. After that first year, he traveled to the southern U.S. states to help rebuild houses for a month in the torn towns destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Koua has had to relive his tragic accident over and over by making several appearances to help get a new law established in Minnesota to help the wrongly convicted AFTER they have been fully exonerated and proven to be completely innocent. Koua never gave up on humanity and now he is pursuing his passion to be a social worker so he can help others as a career.
Koua was raised in Laos during the Vietnam War and he and his family had to hide out in the jungles in order to survive. Eventually, Koua made it to a refugee camp in Thailand and many years later, he was allowed to settle in the U.S. He and his family have a very high regard for education and hard work. His wife received her BA degree last year and works full-time. They are an amazing family and are always volunteering to help others.
I remember when Good Morning America interviewed Koua right after he was freed and they asked him, “what’ s the first thing you want to do?” His reply was, “I want to teach my kids what the word daddy means, because right now, they don’t know what that word means”. I will never forget that.