A jury of seven women and five men were sworn in at the end of the first day of Sonora nurse Diane Anderson’s trial in San Joaquin County Superior Court in Stockton on Wednesday.
Opening statements will begin Thursday morning.
Anderson is charged with accessory after the fact to vehicular manslaughter as a result of a triple-fatal vehicle collision in La Grange in October 2016.
Approximately 100 people were called as prospective jurors. Tuolumne County Superior Court Judge Kevin Siebert described the process and the jury was sworn in at 4:25 p.m. Three alternate — two men and one woman — were sworn in 20 minutes later.
One juror, who said he worked at a department store, said he was given details by a prospective juror about Anderson’s husband Danny’s case over the noon lunch period, but said it would not affect his ability to be impartial.
The prospective juror who revealed the information said he searched “Dr. Anderson” on the internet before returning to courtroom.
“That’s a no go,” Siebert said, before dismissing the man.
The occupations of other jurors includes a correctional officer with the state prison system whose wife is a nurse, a woman studying to be a court reporter, a former vocational nurse and a few who are in sales.
One female juror, a student, said she frequented Don Pedro Reservoir in Tuolumne County and used J-59 to access the area. A male juror, a truck driver, said the same and added he often saw people cross over the double yellow lines.
One male juror said he received a DUI six years ago, but it would not affect his ability to be impartial.
The jury selection process lasted almost all of the trial day, packing a courtroom on the ninth floor of the 13-story courthouse with prospective jurors.
Just after 11:30 a.m., when Diane Anderson’s daughter and one member of the press were allowed inside the courtroom where every seat was filled, two people indicated they had knowledge of the case.
“We’re asking you to really tell us the truth about yourself,” said Diane Anderson’s attorney, Roger Nuttall of Fresno. “It’s looking in yourself and talking the truth. I’m honest with you and you’re honest with me.”
Nuttall often gestured toward Diane, sitting behind him at the defense desk with a woman and her other attorney, Nathan Nutting of Sonora, and gave extended orations that alluded to details in the trial and a possible defense strategy.
He was urged by Siebert to quicken the pace of his inquiries.
“Ask a question,” Siebert said.
Nuttall responded by asking prospective jurors if they would hold Siebert’s reprimand against his client, which drew some scoffing from the crowd.
Tuolumne County District Attorney Laura Krieg asked the prospective jurors questions related to their knowledge of vehicles passing over double yellow lines and whether they would be prejudiced by a witness with a prior misdemeanor conviction over 10 years old.
One woman who was dismissed said she worked for a hospice agency which covered Amador, Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties and knew of the case.
Another man said he worked at a weapons training site in Tuolumne County and had heard about the case from California Highway Patrol officers at the facility. He spoke the name of at least one current CHP - Sonora Area officer, but said he had only limited knowledge of the case. He was not dismissed after the lunch break.
Another woman was dismissed because she said she was growing anxious about the prospect of hearing the trial.
“I don’t think I can do it,” she said, upset and nearly driven to tears.
A ruling is expected on the admissibility of a CHP interview recorded with Diane Anderson during the accident investigation before opening statements on Thursday.
The CHP - Sonora area investigated a triple-fatal head on collision in La Grange in October 2016. Danny Anderson and Diane Anderson were arrested on charges related to manslaughter after investigators said Danny Anderson illegally crossed the double yellow lines on J-59 to pass two vehicles and caused the accident.
Danny Anderson was sentenced to five years and four months in state prison in July 2018 after being convicted of three counts of vehicular manslaughter, hit and run and obstructing an investigation.
He is in the custody of the California Institution for Men in Chino.
Diane Anderson is charged with felonies, accessory after the fact to vehicular manslaughter and failure to perform a duty after an accident, also described as hit and run. She is also charged with misdemeanors concealing evidence and obstructing an investigation.
Siebert asked multiple questions of the prospective jurors related to their past criminal histories, relationships to law enforcement or legal professions, or any scheduling conflicts that would make them unavailable during the duration of the trial.
The trial was estimated by Siebert to last nine days, or until Aug. 26. Due to a scheduling conflict, the trial would resume on Sept. 5 if it is not finished before that date.
Siebert also indicated during his statements to the prospective jurors that the prosecution and the defense postulated opposing theories about the cause of the accident during three minute “mini-opening statements.”
One prospective juror asked during the questioning, “What happened to the husband?”
Siebert said he would not explain it at this time, but that information may be revealed during trial.
Krieg indicated at a hearing in the Tuolumne County Superior Court on Monday that she would call Danny Anderson to testify.
Present in the San Joaquin County Superior Court on Wednesday were five members of the victims’ families and approximately 12 family and friends of Diane Anderson.
Before the jury was brought in, Siebert read a “neutral statement” he said he prepared to introduce the jury to the trial. He said the statement would describe a vehicle accident in Tuolumne County, but it would not explain why the trial was being held in San Joaquin County.
Siebert ruled in July the trial would be held in San Joaquin County because widespread local knowledge of Danny Anderson’s conviction would make a fair trial difficult for Diane Anderson.