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Candice Anderson

Other Texas Cases with Female Exonerees
On November 15, 2004, 21-year-old Candice Anderson was behind the wheel of her 2004 Saturn Ion when the car left the road in Van Zandt County, Texas, rolled over and struck a tree. The front airbags did not deploy and Anderson went partially through the windshield. Her fiancé, 25-year-old Gene Mikale Erickson, who was riding in the front passenger seat, was killed.

Anderson survived despite serious injuries. In 2006, after blood tests showed the slight presence of a prescription sedative, Anderson was charged with intoxication manslaughter.

In October 2007, Anderson pled guilty in Van Zandt County District Court to a charge of criminally negligent homicide. She was placed on community supervision for 5 years.

A lawsuit was subsequently filed against General Motors, the maker of the Saturn Ion, on behalf of Anderson and Erickson’s surviving two children. The lawsuit was settled out of court, but not before General Motors filed a report blaming the injuries on the failure of Erickson to fasten his seat belt and “not a result of non-deployment of the right front passenger's frontal airbag. The report asserted the same conclusion about Anderson’s injuries. The report denied there was any defect in the car.

However, evidence later showed that in May 2007, five months before Anderson pled guilty, General Motors had conducted an internal review of the accident and determined that the car was at fault—a defect in the ignition switch caused the car to turn off. As a result, the car lost power to operate the power steering and power brakes and to activate the airbags. Though a General Motors engineer had concluded that the cause of the crash was most likely a loss of power, the company never informed Anderson, her attorney, the prosecution or the court.

In May 2014, the New York Times published an article that reported that General Motors included Erickson in its list of victims of the long-term and widespread ignition switch defect in GM cars. The Times learned of Erickson’s inclusion on the list after Erickson’s mother formally inquired of GM at the Times’ request.

After Anderson learned of the accident’s inclusion by GM, she filed a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus seeking to vacate her conviction.

The Van Zandt County District Attorney who prosecuted Anderson, Leslie Poynter Dixon, and the police trooper who investigated the accident, both said that if the ignition-switch defect had been publicly known at the time of the crash, details such as the lack of skid marks or evasive action would have been viewed differently.

As part of Anderson’s habeas petition, Dixon, who was no longer the District Attorney, wrote a letter stating: “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 for intoxication manslaughter.”

On November 24, 2014, the habeas petition was granted, and Van Zandt County District Judge Teresa Drum issued an order of acquittal.

In 2014, General Motors recalled 2.8 million vehicles for possible ignition switch defects. The company knew about this problem for more than a decade but did not report it. As of March 2015, a total of 67 deaths were attributed to ignition switch defects in GM cars.

Anderson filed a lawsuit against General Motors, but withdrew it to negotiate directly with the company through its compensation fund.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 3/19/2015
State:Texas
County:Van Zandt
Most Serious Crime:Manslaughter
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2004
Convicted:2007
Exonerated:2014
Sentence:Probation
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Female
Age at the date of crime:21
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No