Prescription medication Diane Anderson took for her back caused her to sleep through her husband passing over the double yellow lines on J-59 in La Grange, she testified Friday.
She said she took a dose of Klonopin, a sedative, and Gabapentin, a nerve-pain medication, somewhere around Fresno.
“I was getting pretty uncomfortable,” she testified. “It makes you very sleepy.”
She said she takes medication every day because she has peripheral neuropathy, a nerve damage condition, had two fusions in her back and unsuccessful lower back surgeries.
She remembered stopping at a Taco Bell in Merced to use the restroom while her husband Danny got a burrito. As they continued northbound, she remembered using an iPad but doesn’t remember much until her husband woke her.
“I’m not sure exactly if I heard Danny yelling at me or if he was shaking me, but he definitely woke me up,” she testified.
She said Danny told her “something happened” and they needed to turn around.
“I was like, what? What?” Diane Anderson said, shaking her arms and signalling surprise as if she had just been awoken.
Diane Anderson, who is on trial in the San Joaquin County Superior Court in Stockton for accessory after the fact to vehicular manslaughter, denied knowing about her husband passing any cars or her vehicle’s possible connection to a triple-fatal collision while she was at the accident scene.
She didn’t learn that her husband passed two northbound vehicles, she testified, until after both of them were interviewed by CHP officers more than six weeks later.
Tuolumne County District Attorney Laura Krieg focused on Diane Anderson’s statements to the CHP in her recorded interview, which omitted the information that she had taken prescription medication.
Krieg also asked her why in the interview she alluded to playing on the iPad if she was asleep.
Diane Anderson emphasized that she was dozing, clarifying that she meant “in and out” of sleep, and couldn’t exactly recall what she was doing at the time of the collision.
At times the examination became contentious, with Anderson leaning forward toward Krieg and asking her, “haven’t you ever fallen asleep while reading a book?”
Diane Anderson told Krieg she was nervous during the CHP interview because of insinuations by the officers that she may be responsible for the collision. She attributed the inconsistencies to Krieg’s misinterpretations and denied that she was untruthful.
“I think I was just saying stuff, I don’t know why,” Diane Anderson said.
In the interview, she acknowledged knowing a passing car caused the accident, but she did not contact the CHP because the 2015 Acura MDX being sought was identified as “fleeing the scene.”
She said she read articles in The Union Democrat and showed her husband because she was concerned that the vehicle being sought matched their own and someone might seek retribution, she said.
In the recording, she is quoted as saying, “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.”
During her testimony she said, “My kids think they’re rednecks. It’s kind of a joke.”
She added, “It is a redneck town. I knew that and I knew that when I moved there. And people carry guns.”
Diane Anderson said she met her husband at Loma Linda University and the pair decided to move to Sonora and raise their family because she loved the area.
Diane testified that the collision scene was traumatic, but she attempted to assist her husband with administering medical aid.
“I felt like I was in another world,” she said.
Initially, she said she did not support her husband turning around because she knew from past experiences that doctors could be sued for giving aid.
She said she tried to call 911, but had no reception. She called out “does anybody have reception,” but no one answered her.
She checked the pulse on a woman in the street she initially believed was a juvenile and couldn’t find one. She found Danny, who initiated chest compressions on the woman.
“It was bloody, but I didn’t know it was futile,” she said. “It still makes me shake today to have to think about it.”
She said she covered up the body with towels after her husband pronounced the woman dead and assisted collision survivor Dorothy Eisemann out of her car and to the curb.
A 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.
The defense also recalled California Highway Patrol Officer Joelle McChesney to ask why the recording was made without Diane Anderson’s knowledge.
Mirroring a statement from Judge Kevin Siebert earlier in the morning, McChesney said it was legal and a common practice.
The defense recalled prosecution witness George Perez, the owner of a white Dodge pickup truck and who made the first 911 call regarding the collision.
Diane Anderson’s attorney Nathan Nutting said Perez’s testimony was inconsistent with an interview with the CHP days after the accident related to how long he was at the scene before he left to call 911 at the Houseboat Mini Mart and how far behind he was from a procession of vehicles believed to include the Lexus RX300.
Nutting suggested Perez’s vehicle matched the description made by accident witness Christina Hodge, who claimed during testimony that a southbound vehicle caused the collision.
Ultimately, the defense was not able to propose that theory before the jury.
CHP Investigator Robert Shaw, under recall by the defense, told Nutting that Trista Hoffman’s reaction to pull gradually to the side of J-59 before the collision was reasonable and correlated with eyewitness testimony of an oncoming vehicle.
Questioned by Nutting and Kreig as to why he did not contact Hodge, Shaw said he considered a recorded statement made by her to be “confused.” He said a southbound passing vehicle was not plausible because it would have collided with either the Anderson vehicle or the Ford Windstar behind it.
The defense also recalled prosecution witness Shaunna Hoffman, a Sonora nurse who testified Friday she saw the nose of the Camry bob up and down as she rounded a southbound corner toward the collision site.
She testified she did not see any southbound passing vehicles before the accident.
The defense called four character witnesses to attest to Diane Anderson’s honesty and her dissatisfaction with the Acura before the collision.
Three of the character witnesses, Margaret Wittman, Carol Sohrweide and Jeff Heim, all said they met Diane Anderson through her hobby of showing dogs.
Heim testified that Diane has “always been up front with me with business we’ve had,” noting they became friends after she hired him to show dogs for her.
Under questioning from Tuolumne County Deputy District Attorney Harold Nutt, Heim acknowledged being paid 30 to 40 times by Diane Anderson as a part of their business relationship.
Donovan Teel, an OBGYN from Sonora, also testified that Diane Anderson, his former patient, was hardworking and honest.
Siebert disallowed another character witness and denied a motion to seat a defense expert who defense attorney Roger Nuttall said would challenge law enforcement’s handling of the investigation because the prosecution was informed of the witness a day before the trial.
On Friday afternoon, Nuttall accused Siebert of placing the defense in a “bad light” because of “negative comments.”
“We have the right to fully present our case without being shut down and that is what happened this afternoon,” Nuttall said.
“You seem to wish to control the proceedings here,” Siebert responded, adding what Nuttall considered to be admonishments were necessary to ensure a timely completion of the trial.
Siebert said the jury would not convene on Monday and counsel would address disagreements in jury instructions.
The trial will reconvene in the San Joaquin County Superior Court on Sept. 5. The defense said they had one witness remaining.
After closing arguments, the jury is expected to enter into deliberations.
The trial has lasted eight days so far, which includes one day of jury selection. The prosecution rested their case Tuesday and called 20 witnesses, including Danny Anderson, who invoked constitutional and spousal protections to not testify against his wife. Thus far, the defense has called 10 witnesses and recalled four of the prosecution witnesses.