Tuolumne County Superior Court Judge Kevin Seibert denied a defense motion to delay the trial of Sonora nurse Diane Anderson, whose trial is scheduled to begin at the San Joaquin County Superior Court in Stockton in one week.
Seibert said the motion falsely accused the court of setting time limits on jury selection and the defense case during the upcoming trial, which will determine if Diane Anderson was an accessory after the fact to vehicular manslaughter.
Her husband, Danny Anderson, was found to be responsible for a triple-fatal vehicle collision on J-59 in La Grange from October 2016 after he passed vehicles in front of him on double yellow lines and while Diane was in the passenger seat.
Seibert granted a change of venue motion from the defense in July due to widespread knowledge of the accident in Tuolumne County.
Reading through a list of examples presented by the defense motion, Seibert repeated “not a word” was said indicating the defense would have their time restricted for cross examination, presenting their case and opening or closing arguments.
“It’s just flat wrong, and I think you guys know it,” Seibert said. “Tell me where in the world I said anything like that.”
Diane Anderson wore reading glasses attached to a neck strap lanyard and looked straight ahead toward Seibert during the duration of the 45 minute hearing, but did not make a statement of her own.
She was seated to the left of her attorney, Mark Coleman, who argued that the expected trial dates — from Aug. 14 to Aug. 26 — was not enough time to conduct the proceedings and was so soon as to leave one of their defense experts unprepared.
“I don’t believe that this case can be tried in the time that is available,” Coleman said.
Seibert said the Tuolumne County District Attorney’s Office estimated between three and four days for their case and the defense case was expected to be equivalent.
“I’ve never been in a trial where the defense takes longer,” Seibert said. “This might be the first.”
Seibert also noted the trial was not mandated to end on Aug. 26.
The court is unavailable between Aug. 26 and Sept. 5 due to a scheduling conflict, but Seibert said if the trial was not completed within the expected time frame, it would resume when the court was available again.
“Those types of continuances happen all the time,” Seibert said and later added, “nobody ever said the case was over on the 26th no matter what.”
Coleman also argued that a defense expert was not given adequate time to prepare a reconstruction and reevaluation of the accident.
“As far as I know, he has not completed his report, he has not completed his work,” Coleman said.
Coleman said the Tuolumne County District Attorney’s Office denied the defense usable laser scans of the accident site. The scans would help develop a rendering or animation showing a possible alternative to the CHP narrative, which placed Danny Anderson at fault for causing the accident.
“The dynamics of this accident are greatly disputed,” Coleman said, adding that if the relevant points were moved “40, 60, 100 feet” it could change the way the accident occurred.
The District Attorney’s Office will have the burden of proof during Diane Anderson’s trial to prove her husband caused the accident in order to convict her as an accessory.
Coleman said an engineer hired by the defense had requested more data to complete a rendering, but the defense had been unable to pull any relevant information from the laser scans provided by the Tuolumne County District Attorney’s Office because they did not have a $12,000 proprietary software used to analyze them.
Tuolumne County District Attorney Laura Kreig said the office was not required to make the software available to their expert, but directed them to an online platform to analyze the data.
Seibert said the argument from the defense would have had more credence if they provided a sworn deposition from the expert or engineer, instead of “anecdotal” claims.
Seibert also indicated Coleman and Roger Nuttall, the lead attorney representing Diane Anderson, knew about the accident reconstruction process because they discussed the case with an expert hired by Danny Anderson’s trial attorney, Tom Johnson, before they argued for a new trial in January 2019.
Coleman further argued for a community attitude and media survey in Stockton to explore the knowledge of the accident and Danny Anderson’s case there.
Seibert said no one raised an issue with San Joaquin County when he selected it as the trial venue on July 29.
“If the court would allow this daisy chain of serial venue arguments, the trial would be delayed indefinitely,” Seibert said.
Seibert added at the end of the hearing that he did not consider another continuance motion because the trial had already been delayed four times.
He acknowledged Nuttall originally requested a trial date for October, but chose to represent Diane Anderson anyway when the trial was set for August.
Seibert also read a statement addressing an objection brief filed against the court for its decision to hold the continuance motion hearing on Wednesday instead of on Aug. 12 as was suggested by Nutall.
Seibert referred to the objection as “replete with errors and misrepresentations” and denied any prejudice against the defense in scheduling the motion hearing.
Seibert said Nuttall unilaterally set the Aug. 12 date without consulting the court and noted a court reporter was available on Wednesday
It was “neither practical nor prudent” to have a continuance hearing two days before the trial was set to begin, he added.
“The court has a duty to ensure its proceedings are done in an orderly manner,” he said.
Seibert said it was not true that the hearing was scheduled deliberately when Nuttall was not available. Nuttall told the court he was in a DUI trial in Kings County on Aug. 5, Seibert said, but sent a signed document the next day indicating he was in Fresno.
“I’m not trial counsel. I think that’s the point Nuttall was trying to make,” Coleman said.
Krieg also requested Coleman state on record whether they were accusing the prosecution of misconduct for opposing the continuance motion, but Coleman said he could not comment on that.
Seibert said a final motion hearing would be heard on either Friday or Monday depending on the availability of counsel to hear final motions.
“There are a number from both sides,” Seibert said.
Diane Anderson was a passenger in a white Acura MDX in October 2016 when her husband, Danny Anderson, crossed double-yellow lines on northbound J-59 near La Grange to pass two vehicles in front of him.
Danny Anderson was sentenced to five years and four months in state prison on the three counts of vehicular manslaughter, in addition to hit-and-run and obstructing an investigation. He is in custody at the California Institution for Men in Chino.
Diane Anderson has pleaded not guilty to one count of felony hit-and-run resulting in death or serious injury of six involved parties in the accident, an accessory after the fact to vehicular manslaughter, and misdemeanor charges of destroying or concealing evidence and obstructing an investigation.
The collision resulted in the death of Tina Hoffman, 51, and her daughter, Trista Hoffman, 16, in the Lexus, and Reinholt Eismann, 72, in the Camry. Lexus passengers Dillon Hoffman, 17, sustained two broken legs, and Annie Johnson, 16, sustained brain hemorrhages. Camry driver Dorothy Eismann, 66, sustained minor injuries.
Danny Anderson has appealed his case in the California Court Fifth Appellate District. His opening brief in the appeal is due to the court on Aug. 27.