The tracking dog that prosecutors claim found Laci Peterson's scent at the Berkeley Marina failed its state certification test this year, documents show.
And that failure apparently contradicts Contra Costa County handler Eloise Anderson's sworn testimony at a February 24 pre-trial hearing.
Most tracking dogs in California are certified by a group called CARDA - the California Rescue Dog Association - which works in conjunction with the state Office of Emergency Services.
Eloise Anderson's dog Trimble was certified by CARDA four years ago, but the dog must be recertified every year.
On Feb. 21 of this year, Anderson took Trimble to Auburn for her annual recertification test.
But according to the dog's evaluation, Trimble failed.
"Dog did not complete trail during test period," wrote evaluator Peter Harrington.
Under the category of "recertification," Harrington checked the box "Fail."
Trimble reportedly later failed her Contra Costa County recertification as well.
But on Feb. 24, only three days after the CARDA failure, Anderson seemed to testify in a Redwood City courtroom that her dog was certified. The hearing was held by Judge Alfred Delucchi to determine whether to admit the dog evidence at trial.
Prosecutor Dave Harris asked her if both her dogs Twist and Trimble were certified by CARDA. The transcript follows:
Harris: "Besides working with Contra Costa Sherif's Department, do you also have any certifications with those particular dogs to the Office of Emergency Services here, CARDA?"
Anderson: "Both dogs are certified with CARDA, Trimble as a trailing dog, Twist as a cadaver dog."
Here's a bit more of Anderson's testimony at the pre-trial, under direct examination by Dave Harris:
David Harris: With regards to Trimble, did Trimble also go through the certification signoff process through CARDA?
Eloise Anderson: She did.
David Harris: And what are the, are these trails lengthy trails, or time period type of trails, the dog has to be signed off to be a trailing dog for CARDA?
Eloise Anderson: Above and beyond the basic obedience and agility, again, that the dog has to do, yes, they have timed trails, or aged trails, that are specific ages that the dog must complete in order to take their certification test.
David Harris: And what are the ages that they had to complete?
Eloise Anderson: There is a 48‑hour‑old trail, a 72‑hour‑old trail, and a 96-hour-old trail. And then their test is, I believe 18 to, 20 or 18 to 24 hours, I believe.
Judge Delucchi: Excuse me. Can I, are there any aged trails for cadaver dogs?
Eloise Anderson: No, because the dog does not trail. The dog just works to a specific scent source.
Judge Delucchi: So it could be six months old?
Eloise Anderson: Correct. Correct. And we have worked dogs on many years old.
Judge Delucchi: Okay.
David Harris: With regards to Trimble, did Trimble complete the 48, 72 and 96 hour signoffs?
Eloise Anderson: Yes, she did.
David Harris: And was she successful in getting her certification?
Eloise Anderson: Yes, she was.
David Harris: You were talking about your association with Contra Costa Sheriff's Department, mentioning that you were a handler for them. What does that mean to be a handler?
Eloise Anderson: It means that I handle my own dogs with which I have certified, usually through CARDA. We use the CARDA certifications. Our county accepts the CARDA certification. Means that I am certified to handle that dog for Contra Costa County.
This is the cross examination by Shephard Kopp, who was working with the Geragos law firm, on February 25, 2004.
Shephard Kopp: Good morning, Miss Anderson.
Eloise Anderson: Good morning.
Shephard Kopp: I'm Shepard Kopp, an attorney representing Scott Peterson. Now, I'm going to start off with your dog Trimble. How old is Trimble?
Eloise Anderson: Trimble is six years old.
Shephard Kopp: And when was Trimble certified by CARDA as a trailing dog?
Eloise Anderson: Trimble was certified by CARDA for the first time when she was four years old.
Shephard Kopp: So she had been certified for approximately a year when you performed these trailing exercises that you just testified about.
David Harris: Objection. Are we talking about the exercises, or what?
Judge Delucchi: I sustain. Be more specific.
Shephard Kopp: In late December of 2002, she had been certified for about a year?
Eloise Anderson: I would have to double check my records, but I believe that would be correct.
Shephard Kopp: Give or take a few months?
Eloise Anderson: Correct.
Anderson is very evasive about Trimble's certification -- she gives her age, not the date. To give the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, she should have said: Trimble was first certified by CARDA in February 2002, recertified in February 2003, and failed recertification on February 21, 2004, just 4 days ago. Cole got that wrong in his article: Trimble had been certified for 2 years, not 4 years.
Would Trimble's failure to recertify in February 2004 have made any difference in Delucchi's decision to allow Trimble's alert at the Berkeley Marina as evidence in the trial? I think they (the Prosecution and Anderson) must have feared it would have a negative impact, or they wouldn't have concealed the information. Or perhaps Anderson concealed that information from the Prosecutors, too.
Was Trimble's failure to recertify in February 2004 brought up at the trial when Anderson testified on August 31 and September 1, 2004? Let's see what Dave Harris brought out on direct examination:
HARRIS: Now, I want to go back to, for Trimble to come on line to the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department, did she need some type of test or exam or something?
ANDERSON: We did our, our very first certification we did with the California Rescue Dog Association, because at that point in time the Office of Emergency Services and Contra Costa County did not have specific testing standards in place for the trailing dogs. And so they accepted the CARDA certification. So I tested her under the CARDA guidelines for her first test.
HARRIS: Now, when you're talking about CARDA guidelines, we've heard what that is, but I want to go through their guidelines, what they did. Is this a process where you just show up and show them your dog and you get some type of certificate?
ANDERSON: No. What you have is to do you go through a process. You do some basic obedience. For trailing dogs, because they also recognize that a lot of your trailing dogs you don't want heavy obedience on them, so they do basic obedience. They have to walk like a sane creature on the end of a leash and not be dragging you everywhere, when they're on a collar. They have to be able to be tied up. They don't have to do a hard sit/stay where they're not tied, where they have to stay. They are just expected to stay tied to a fence, or something of that nature. They have to be, they have to demonstrate agility over some different surfaces. They are, I believe, exposed to cadaver scent only for the notification of the handler, so that if their dog were to find somebody, does the dog have aversion. Will the dog go I'm not going in there, or will the dog drive forward in there. And then for the trailing portion of it, they have to do a 48 hour old trail. They have to do a 72 hour old trail, can I, may I look at my,
ANDERSON: sign offs? Just to make sure I get the hours right. Whoops. Wrong binder. They have to do two night search trails, which aren't any specific age. They have to do a 48 hour old trail, a 96 hour old trail. They have to do an urban trail where the trail is strictly in an urban setting. Streets and sidewalks. And then their test is on a trail that is, I believe, 18 to 24 hours old.
No mention of the failed recertification in February 2004. And it took a direct question from Delucchi to get the date of when Trimble was first certified.
JUDGE: When was she actually certified by CARDA?
ANDERSON: She was certified by CARDA in February of 2002.
JUDGE: February 2002?
GERAGOS: February 2002.
ANDERSON: I believe so. I can double-check.
HARRIS: So Trimble becomes certified February of 2002 by CARDA?
HARRIS: And at that point in time did Contra Costa County accept that certification and allow you to start working with them?
ANDERSON: Yes, they did.
HARRIS: And did also the Office of Emergency Services accept that certification, allow you to start working with Trimble?
HARRIS: Now, you, you've told us about all the training, and the dog goes through this certification process; February 2002, certified dog. Do you get to stop training the dog at that point in time?
ANDERSON: No. We continue the, the training is an ongoing process with the dogs. Once, I spent three years working this dog before I ever tested her, because I wanted to try to make things as smooth as I could, to work out as many wrinkles that I might see and try to get her as solid as I could before I ever tested her, because I knew that trailing dogs are a very limited commodity in California, and I wanted as solid and competent a dog as I could produce, so that she could hit the streets right away.
Delucchi doesn't seem to be aware that the dogs must be recertified each year. Maybe that's because the subject of recertification is very carefully avoided.
HARRIS: Ms. Anderson, we were going through your training records with Trimble and we're going to move on at this point in time. What I want to talk about is moving to December 2002. Were you and Trimble as a team certified to work for CARDA, the Office of Emergency Services and Contra Costa so that you could be called out in a search and rescue operation?
ANDERSON: That's correct.
Geragos does bring out a lot of problems with Trimble's trailing record. Specifically, he called her out on failing to remember a vehicle test that Trimble failed when she testified at the pre-trial hearings in February 2004, for which Geragos later obtained a video tape. Geragos played the video, and it was very obvious that Trimble could not do a vehicle trail. More importantly, Anderson did not notify the DAs that she had failed to "remember" this test when she testified in February 2004, and in fact did not notify them until Geragos subpoenaed the records.
GERAGOS: Now, when did you call the district attorney about this?
ANDERSON: I don't recall. It was after February.
GERAGOS: Okay. It was after February. Wasn't it when I executed a subpoena on Contra Costa on August 3rd? Didn't you call the DA, of this month, on August 4th, and tell them Wait a second, I got a tape?
GERAGOS: You didn't call them on August 4th?
ANDERSON: No, I didn't. Well, I don't, I don't know who might have called them on August 4th, but I had the tape before this month.
GERAGOS: You never before –
ANDERSON: In fact, I turned this tape over to the sheriff's department in March or April. I believe it was March.
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, did you know that I had executed a subpoena on Contra Costa on August 3rd for all of the records? August 3rd of this month?
ANDERSON: That's correct.
ANDERSON: I mean I was told that, yes, there had been a subpoena
GERAGOS: Okay. You were aware that on August 4th I get an e-mail from Mr. Harris that all of a sudden they may have a tape?
ANDERSON: I, I don't know what e-mails you get from Mr. Harris.
GERAGOS: Okay. Did you, did you call Mr. Harris on, after the subpoena was executed this month, on August 3rd, and say Hey, by the way, I got a tape, remember that vehicle trailing exercise they were asking us about in February, all of a sudden I remember there's a tape of it and I did fail?
ANDERSON: No, I did not.
GERAGOS: Okay. Now, you seem to know a whole lot about or have a memory about it now and you didn't in February, correct?
ANDERSON: I didn't ever remember doing an actual vehicle trail, because we never set up actual vehicle trails.
GERAGOS: Okay. And specifically you were asked: Do you recall an exercise that Mr. Rebmann ran you and Trimble through in which there was a contact trail, and then the subject got in the vehicle and drove away? Do you remember that? And your answer was yes, correct?
GERAGOS: And you said: Okay. Did you tell Mr. Rebmann that your dog, Trimble, was capable of following a scent, a trail that came out of a vehicle? And your answer was Yes, I did; right?
GERAGOS: Okay. And on this particular occasion Trimble was not able to follow the scent that came out of the vehicle, correct? And your answer was?
ANDERSON: 'I don't recall.'
However, Geragos asks no questions about the recertification process and does not mention Trimble's failure to recertify in February 2004, just a few days before Anderson led Judge Delucchi to believe he was certified, as in currently certified. It would have been nice to see Anderson confronted with this and asked if, and when, she advised the DAs of Trimble's failure to recertify.
Does it make any difference that Trimble failed recertification on February 21, 2004? Obviously Anderson, and most likely the DAs, too, thought it would or else she/they would have disclosed it to the Defense in discovery, to Judge Delucchi in the pre-trial hearings, and if Delucchi would still have let the testimony into trial, to the jury.
Anderson's duplicity coupled with Seitz's dog NOT alerting at the Berkeley Marina that day should signal to all reasonable people that there is no evidence whatsoever that Laci was ever at the Berkeley Marina.