Tuolumne County Deputy District Attorney Harold Nutt said Diane Anderson knew her husband was responsible for a triple fatal J-59 collision in La Grange, deliberately disguising their involvement at the scene afterwards and all the way through her trial.
“She knew. She knew,” Nutt said during the prosecution’s closing arguments. “They were hoping to get out of this unscathed and uninvolved.”
Anderson’s attorney Roger Nuttall warned that his comments would be protracted and tedious, but necessary because he needed to explain an alternative theory for what caused the Oct. 21, 2016, head-on collision between a southbound Lexus RX300 and a northbound Toyota Camry. “It’s a very important case for many reasons. And we didn’t come this far just to lay down,” Nuttall said.
Anderson’s trial at the San Joaquin County Superior Court in Stockton continued after an eight day hiatus on Thursday morning.
Nuttall’s closing statement will continue on Friday.
Nutt said the prosecution’s case hinged on the credibility of survivors and witnesses — Dillon Hoffman, Dorothy Eisemann and Joe Zertuche — who saw the Andersons’ Acura MDX pass in the opposite lane just before the collision occurred.
Nutt crossed his arms over his face to show survivor Dillon Hoffman’s testimony that he covered his face because he saw a white vehicle coming toward the Lexus in their lane and believed a collision was imminent.
“I expect that was the last vision he expected to have on Earth,” Nutt said.
But Nuttall suggested that Dillon Hoffman’s estimation of the distance between the Lexus and the northbound passing vehicle, as well as Dorothy Eisemann’s description of the northbound pass as a “whoosh” actually pointed to a southbound pass.
The prosecution sought to undermine the credibility of defense witnesses who espoused that theory— specifically the inconsistent statements of Christina Hodge, who arrived at the collision scene and claimed a light-colored and large southbound vehicle passed her and caused the collision, and by Danny and Diane Anderson’s attempts to redefine their past statements.
“Hodge’s credibility is blown,” Nutt said, citing that she did not report seeing someone pass going south in her original 911 call and testified that she believed she was behind the Camry.
“She has every fact about this collision wrong, absolutely wrong.”
Nutt said seven prosecution witnesses testified that they did not see anyone passing going south before the collision.
“That’s not how this collision happened,” Nutt said.
Nuttall suggested Hodge was smeared by the prosecution and law enforcement because her recollections didn’t correlate with their notions about the cause of the accident.
“She is there. She exists. She is not a fiction. She is not a fabric of anybody’s imagination,” Nuttall said.
Hodge testified she related the accident to an employee of the nearby Hacienda office and later called from her mother’s house phone to report the accident. In her call she said she believed a juvenile pedestrian was struck in the road.
Before the trial day ended, Nuttall had just begun reiterating the testimony of George Perez, a salesman who testified that he was traveling southbound in a white company pickup truck when he heard the collision and drove up to the aftermath.
“Here’s what George Perez wants you to believe,” Nuttall began.
Earlier in the proceedings the defense suggested Perez was the southbound passing vehicle described by Hodge. According to CHP call logs in evidence, Perez was the first person to call 911 and report the collision.
Diane Anderson is charged with accessory after the fact to vehicular manslaughter, failure to perform a duty after a collision as a registered owner and passenger of an involved vehicle, destroying or concealing evidence and obstructing or delaying a police investigation.
The prosecution must prove Danny Anderson committed a felony and that Diane Anderson knew about it and concealed it to convict her of the accessory charge.
Nutt described Diane and Danny Anderson as “combative” witnesses who had to be “cornered” into admitting past statements, which did not match their testimony during the trial.
“Both of them have every interest that the other doesn’t suffer any consequences,” Nutt said.
Nuttall repeatedly read a transcription of Diane Anderson’s interview with California Highway Patrol officers before her arrest to attest to her veracity. Nuttall said Diane Anderson learned later via The Union Democrat that law enforcement was searching for a white Acura MDX that matched her vehicle, but she did not believe her vehicle was involved because the article said the driver of the Acura fled the scene, and she did not know her husband crossed over the double yellow lines because they did not discuss the collision.
“She believed him then and she believes him now,” he said, noting Danny Anderson’s continuing refusal to acknowledge his pass as the cause of the collision. “You cannot be an accomplice to a crime you don’t believe happened.”
Nutt said the couple displayed “an attitude of this is beneath me” during the trial and used semantics to recalibrate her defense. He noted that Diane or Danny Anderson made no mention before the trial began that she used medication, which she said caused her to doze through the collision and the rumble strips when her husband passed the car.
“She’s not there to tell her life story. She’s there to answer their questions about what she knew and what she saw,” said Nuttall during the defense closing.
Nutt said there were absolutes in the trial the jury had to accept as true — where the head-on collision between the southbound Lexus and the northbound Camry occurred, where the Lexus left the highway, the speed of the Camry during the five seconds before the collision, the acceleration ability of the Acura MDX, that Danny Anderson crossed over the double yellow lines and that he was driving at a high speed in the minutes before the collision.
“I don’t care how you cut it, he was moving,” Nutt said, referencing surveillance footage from a storage facility two miles from the Houseboat Mini Mart which showed the Acura MDX 43 seconds behind the Camry. In the Houseboat Mini Mart video, less than a minute before the collision, the Acura MDX is three car lengths behind the Camry, he said.
“He was driving way faster than he should have been driving,” Nutt said.
Before Nutt began his closing arguments, Siebert read a series of jury instructions for about 45 minutes that addressed the jury’s role in determining the cause of the collision, witness credibility and the conditions by which they could acquit or find Diane Anderson guilty of the crimes.
Siebert also rejected a brief he said was filed by the defense on Wednesday, which alleged misconduct on behalf of the court for what they considered interrupting and admonishing defense counsel inappropriately in front of the jury. The brief called upon the court to restrict further interruptions and admonishments in the remaining proceedings.
“The court has no intention of abdicating its responsibility,” Siebert said. “I don’t think the accusations are well founded.”
The defense had raised the objection verbally during the trial before the hiatus, suggesting the jury would be prejudiced against Diane Anderson because Siebert admonished Nuttall.
Siebert also rejected a jury instruction submitted by the defense on Wednesday related to the cause of the collision. He said the submission of the jury instruction was not timely, was covered by another instruction and was not proper because it was a civil instruction.
The defense called their eleventh and final witness (not including four recalled prosecution witnesses) Thursday morning, a private investigator named Kim Konvolinka.
Konvolika testified that she paid Hodge $520 during the defense investigation to reimburse her for food, drink, fuel, diabetes medication and syringes and a problem with a vehicle tire. She also said she gave Hodge money to buy a dress before her first court appearance in the Danny Anderson trial.
Danny Anderson was convicted of triple manslaughter and sentenced to five years and four months in state prison.
The defense also submitted a photo into evidence taken by prosecution witness Shauna Hoffman, a nurse who arrived at the aftermath of the scene purporting to show Diane Anderson laying a white cloth over a deceased victim.
“Let me introduce you to Diane Anderson,” Nuttall said.
The trial will continue in the San Joaquin County Superior Court in Stockton at 8:30 a.m. Friday, with the closing arguments from the defense. The prosecution will make a rebuttal closing argument before the jury begins deliberating.