A jury of seven women and five men started deliberating Friday afternoon in the 10-day trial of Diane Anderson, who is charged as an accessory to gross vehicular manslaughter.
The jury spent about an hour and a half before returning to the courtroom to ask for a read-back of Anderson’s testimony. Judge Kevin Siebert said there was not enough time for that on Friday. Deliberations will begin again at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Siebert.opted" class="auto" target="_blank">dir="ltr">Siebert.opted to delay the deliberations a day because a juror said he had a doctor’s appointment on Monday.
“In fairness to him, he’s put in the time,” Siebert said.
Both Diane Anderson’s attorney Roger Nuttall and Tuolumne County District Attorney Laura Krieg agreed they should not seat an alternate and said they would wait until Tuesday.
While the jury deliberated, Anderson waited outside the door of ninth-floor courtroom at the San Joaquin County Superior Court in Stockton with her family, attorneys and friends.
The trial began on Aug. 14 with jury selection. Witness testimony lasted more than seven days and the last two days were dedicated to closing arguments.
The prosecution called 20 witnesses, including Danny Anderson who invoked constitutional and spousal privileges to not testify for the prosecution, and rested their case on Aug. 20.
The defense called 11 witnesses and recalled four of the prosecution witnesses. They rested their case on Thursday. Danny Anderson testified for the defense.
Krieg said Diane Anderson faces up to four years and eight months in state prison if convicted on all charges of 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.
Most of Friday was dedicated to final closing arguments from opposing counsel, who espoused alternative theories for the cause of an October 2016 vehicle collision in La Grange which killed three and injured three others.
Defense attorney Nuttall pressed his theory Friday morning that a salesman who said he saw the aftermath of a triple-fatal J-59 collision and made the first recorded 911 call to report it caused the collision by passing two vehicles in a white truck going southbound.
Authorities “never allowed themselves to fully appreciate his circumstance of where he fit into this, mainly because they already made up their mind,” Nuttall said.
Nuttall, who completed his nearly five-hour closing argument on Friday morning, told the jury any recognition of his theory should cast doubt on the prosecution’s argument that Diane Anderson’s husband, Danny Anderson, caused the October 2016 collision by crossing over the double yellow lines in a white Acura MDX going northbound and that she covered up their involvement to avoid punishment.
“That’s what they have to show to decimate the life of a lovely human being,” Nuttall said.
If the jury chose to bring a conviction, he added, “that bell will ring in the heart and soul and mind of Diane Anderson and her family for the rest of her life.”
Danny Anderson was convicted of vehicular manslaughter in 2018 and sentenced to five years and four months in state prison.
Tuolumne County Deputy District Attorney Harold Nutt argued that the defense based their case on a series of over a dozen improbable coincidences that would all have to be true in order for Diane Anderson to be innocent of the charges.
“In life, there is no such thing as multiple coincidences. It just doesn’t happen,” Nutt said.
He later added, “ladies and gentlemen, there’s a family that’s been destroyed, two of them, and it’s not the Anderson family.”
Nutt played a video produced by a California Highway Patrol accident investigation team, which showed a vehicle driving 53 miles per hour on J-59 past the intersection with Bonds Flat Road through the collision location.
Nutt said there was 1,056 feet to the collision scene from Bonds Flat Road, and the CHP determined the Acura had to travel 957.77 feet to pass and clear the Camry and a gray van ahead of it.
Even if the jury took Danny Anderson at his word that he began the pass just north of Bonds Flat Road, he still would be the cause of the collision, Nutt said.
“He is able to make this pass, free and clear, and never make a collision with this mystery southbound truck?” Nutt said. “There is no possible way that could happen, no physical way that could happen.”
Nuttall suggested that Danny and Diane Anderson were falsely accused and that the true culprit had not been discovered until now due to law enforcement bias and ineptitude.
Nuttall pointed to the difference in time between how long George Perez, a salesman who testified he was traveling southbound in a white company pickup truck when he heard the collision and drove up to the aftermath, estimated he was at the scene — 20 to 30 seconds — and the actual two minutes and 40 seconds clocked by the Houseboat Mini Mart video when he arrived after the collision.
“It absolutely contradicts what George Perez said he was doing at the accident scene,” Nuttall said.
Christina Hodge told defense investigators she saw a white truck pass going southbound. No other witness testified to seeing that, and Nuttall said that was because other aftermath witnesses didn’t see it and the survivors made incorrect statements.
Nutt contended Hodge “wasn’t there” at the scene and called the southbound pass theory a “red herring.”
“I’m not suggesting there physically, I’m suggesting she wasn’t there mentally,” Nutt said.
Nuttall asserted Perez was at the collision scene when it occurred and grappled with the gravity of what he caused before leaving to make the call at the mini mart.
“That’s the only way you can account for that lapse in time,” Nuttall said.
Nuttall suggested Perez knew he was caught when he was asked to identify his vehicle on the Houseboat Mini Mart surveillance video.
“He knew that the tide had kind of turned for him. He knew for the first time someone was suggesting the truth of his having been that large white pickup,” Nuttall said.
“If you take all that together and truly and objectively consider it, then that is what truly happened,” Nuttall said.
Nutt asked the jury to focus on the evidence presented by the prosecution and ignore Nuttall’s rhetoric.
Nutt referenced the testimony of collision survivors Dillon Hoffman and Dorothy Eisemann to note the location of where the pass occurred and the Acura as the cause. He said Diane Anderson’s behavior at the scene — her “1,000 yard stare” and stuttering non-responsiveness to officers indicated the “shock and guilt of what they had done.”
Nutt added that she and her husband never came forward to tell the California Highway Patrol that the Acura passed, even after they knew law enforcement was looking for a vehicle exactly like theirs. He said her claims during trial that she was asleep because of medication was just another in a series of convenient coincidences which kept her from taking responsibility.
“What a coincidence she managed to be oblivious,” Nutt said.
Nuttall added that according to the defense’s accident reconstruction expert, Danny Anderson completed his pass four seconds before the collision.