Jury finds Lee guilty in fatal test drive manslaughter case


by Bryan Baker


Posted on August 26, 2011 at 5:28 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 26 at 7:26 PM

(WHAS11)  On Friday, 32-year-old Bryan Lee made a tearful apology to the family of Toya Buckner-Dioum and her stepfather Sherman King, Sr. during the sentencing portion of his trial, in front of the jury who had already convicted him on two-counts of second degree manslaughter.

“I failed,” cried Lee. “I failed miserably.”

He must have made an impression.  The three-day trial completed late Friday afternoon with the jury recommending the minimum sentence; five years for each count, to run concurrently.  It means Lee will be eligible for parole after just 20 percent of the sentence, or one year.

There’s still a chance Lee won’t see any time in prison, because the judge can consider probation in the case.  Lee served about six weeks in jail following the accident.

Toya’s daughter, Shatova Buckner-Ramsey, who cried on the stand Wednesday while looking at pictures of her deceased mother and grandfather, was pleased with the verdict but said the jury’s recommendation was a “low” sentence.

Lee previously took the stand in the trial Thursday, and during closing arguments Friday Commonwealth Prosecutor Kristi Gray called him “arrogant.”  His tone appeared much different after the conviction, appearing remorseful as he said his family was the only thing that kept him going, and that he’s sure the victims were good people even though he didn’t know them.

On August 23, 2009, Lee test drove a Dodge Challenger from Commonwealth Dodge at a top speed of 102 miles per hour on the six-lane Fern Valley Road.  Toya’s car was pulling out of an apartment complex and attempting to cross the intersection to turn left, when her Mercury Sable was struck.

The devastating accident resulted in folded seats; a Louisville Metro Police Officer who reconstructed the accident said Toya’s body dented the steering wheel, while showing pictures of the gruesome accident in court.

The defense had maintained that Lee was unfamiliar with the car, that the victims ran a stop sign and pulled out in front of him, and that the dealership salesman had pressured him to test the speed of the car in efforts to sell it to Lee.  None of it worked for the jury, who took nearly four hours to return a verdict.

In an earlier moment in court, the jury wanted a clarification of the difference in definitions between “wanton” and “reckless.”  The different words corresponded to a different charge.  The jury had the option of convicting Lee of the lesser charge of reckless homicide but elected not to.

The sentencing hearing will be Oct. 20.