Dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit and a yellow mesh vest with “hearing impaired” printed on the back, Danny Anderson in leg shackles shuffled to the witness stand on Tuesday and invoked his right to not testify against his wife, Diane, who is charged as an accessory to vehicular manslaughter.
He answered one question from Tuolumne County District Attorney Laura Krieg about whether he owned a 2015 Acura MDX.
“Yes ma’am,” he said.
When Krieg asked about the day of the accident, Diane Anderson’s attorney, Mark Coleman, responded that Danny would invoke his constitutional right to not incriminate himself and spousal privilege on all questions related to a J-59 head-on collision on Oct. 21, 2016 which killed three people and injured three others.
Danny sat silently and arced his head toward whomever was speaking in the next minutes. The lawyers squabbled over how Danny Anderson’s previous admission, that he crossed over the double yellow lines to pass two northbound vehicles just before the collision, would be presented to the jury.
It was decided that Danny Anderson would be dismissed, and California Highway Patrol Officer Jason Austin would relate the statement as testimony, which occurred moments later.
The jury has not been informed of Danny Anderson’s conviction or his current status, despite multiple references to “previous proceedings.” The prosecution must prove Danny Anderson committed a felony as a component of proving Diane Anderson is guilty as an accessory after the fact to vehicular manslaughter.
Danny Anderson was convicted in 2018 of triple manslaughter and sentenced to five years and four months in state prison.
Diane Anderson’s attorney Roger Nuttall said Danny had agreed to appear as a defense witness and was scheduled to return on Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s in a different context,” Nuttall argued earlier in the day, when counsel said they were uncertain if Danny Anderson would appear on their behalf. “It’s cross examination. And cross examination has certain limitations.”
Danny Anderson was transferred from the Deuel Vocational Institution in Tracy Tuesday morning .
Before testimony began, a Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office deputy bailiff warned more than a dozen of the Andersons’ family and friends they could be removed from the courtroom or charged with a misdemeanor if they attempted to communicate with Danny in any way.
The head-on collision between a white Lexus RX300 driven by 16-year-old Trista Hoffman and a white Toyota Camry driven by Dorothy Eisemann resulted in the deaths of Trista, her mother, Tina, Dorothy Eisemann’s husband, Rheinholt. Trista’s brother Dillon and her best friend Annie Johnson were injured.
Nuttall said during his opening statement that the defense has an alternative theory to the cause of the accident — that a southbound vehicle passed Christina Hodge and the Hoffman Lexus to cause the collision.
“What we intend to present in our case is evidence that was not considered by law enforcement in their investigation as to the issue of causation and we dispute causation by Danny Anderson,” Nuttall said.
He said expert witness John Tyson and Hodge would be called to testify. He added that no evidence was presented by the prosecution which indicated Diane Anderson knew her husband committed a crime or caused the collision.
The prosecution rested at about 4 p.m. Tuesday following appearances from 20 witnesses (including Danny Anderson) and four days of testimony.
The jury completed listening to a two hour and seven minute audio recording of Diane Anderson during an interview with CHP officers on Dec. 6, 2016.
In the recording, she repeatedly denies knowledge of the cause of the collision.
“I didn’t see any car. I didn’t see anything. I just didn’t see it,” she said.
The CHP officers in the interview, Joelle McChesney and Jeff Snyder, suggested she was withholding information and say they know a white Acura MDX caused the collision.
“We think you hold more answers than you’re telling us,” Snyder said.
Diane admitted in the recording she sold the vehicle three days earlier in San Fernando, but said it was because she felt the car was unsafe and not because of the collision. She acknowledged having read reports in The Union Democrat regarding the ongoing CHP search for the owner of a white Acura.
“I thought this is a redneck town. I know that. I know there’s [indecipherable] minorities. I knew that when I was 18. But we still decided to live here. And I thought, what if someone tries to shoot me because I’m driving an Acura,” she said.
CHP investigator Robert Shaw remained on the stand through Tuesday morning, continuing his testimony from Monday regarding collision reconstruction.
One of Diane Anderson’s attorneys, Nathan Nutting, asserted that the MAIT team ignored leads on witness testimony, which could have altered the conditions that formed the basis for Shaw’s conclusions.
Nutting said accident witness Joe Zertuche testified that the location of the pass was farther south, nearer to Bonds Flat Road, than what was included in the reconstruction. He also said the investigators did not seek a statement from Christina Hodge, who claimed to have seen the accident and believed a driver making a pass while driving southbound caused the accident.
“If you take those people into account, some of this doesn’t add up,” Nutting said.
Shaw said he did not know about Hodge’s statement during the investigation, but he heard a recorded interview with her after the fact.
“It just didn’t make any sense what she was saying,” Shaw said. “What she was talking about was pretty inconceivable.”
Nutting also said the MAIT report was flawed because the initial CHP report already cited Danny Anderson as the cause of the collision. Nutting suggested that a variety of conditions — Danny Anderson’s speed, the speed of the other vehicles involved, the distance between the vehicles and where he initiated the pass — could have enabled him to pass safely.
Shaw said if Danny made the pass earlier than what was included in the MAIT report, he would have done so in the blind curve. He argued that the physical evidence, including the speed of a Camry in front of the Anderson Acura, the crash location, and the entry and exit of the Lexus on the west shoulder, were validated by two of the collision survivors, Dorothy Eisemann and Dillon Hoffman.
On Monday, Shaw said the MAIT calculations showed the Andersons’ Acura MDX would have had to travel approximately 958 feet in 9.12 seconds to pass the Camry and the Ford Windstar in front of it and return to the northbound lane.
Shaw pulled information about the speed of the Camry from an airbag control module, which captured data about the vehicle approximately five second before the collision. He used surveillance footage from the Houseboat Mini Mart and the acceleration rate of the Acura to estimate the other speeds and locations.
Video footage prepared by the CHP investigators were also presented to the jurors to show perspectives of J-59 from vehicles traveling northbound and southbound.
Shaw testified that if you traveled a half mile or a quarter mile north, you lose site of the collision scene. Danny Anderson stated in his recorded interview with Austin during his trial that he saw the collision in his rear view mirror between those distances away and then returned to the scene to render aid.
Both attorneys agreed to add to the record that Trista Hoffman’s toxicology report showed she did not have drugs or alcohol in her system during the collision and that the cause of the three deaths was a traffic collision.
An alternate juror said outside the presence of the other jury panelists she heard a Stockton police officer and another person in law enforcement clothing discussing the trial and that Danny Anderson was found guilty. Both counsel agreed to let her stay on as an alternate juror because she said it would not affect her impartiality and she did not share the information with other jurors.