DA’s expert witness never earned her college degree

April 21, 2018

Tracy Nix


A woman who has testified in dozens of cases and been offered as an expert witness by the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office does not have a college degree that she has claimed in court. [Cal Coast Times]

Tracy Nix, an 18-year DA’s office staffer, has testified in court and written in her resume that she holds a bachelors degree from Cal Poly. The District Attorney’s Office offered her as an expert witness in a sexual abuse case in 2014.

Deputy District Attorney Kelly Maderino asked Judge Jacquelyn H. Duffy to declare Nix an expert. Manderino offered Nix’s resume, which included the claimed college degree, and called Nix to testify about her qualifications.

“Do you have a bachelor’s degree?” Manderino asked Nix, according to the trial transcript.

“I have. I do,” Nix testified.

“And is that from Cal Poly?” Manderino asked.

“It is,” Nix testified.

But Nix never graduated, her Poly profile shows.

District Attorney Dan Dow says Nix’s testimony was not perjured because she “walked.”

“Walking” means a student has participated in the university commencement ceremony. Students wear academic robes and walk across the stage to shake the hand of the university president and college dean.

Dow said that because Nix “walked,” she believed that she had graduated and earned her degree.

“If she believed she had a degree, then she did not commit perjury” Dow said. “It is common at Cal Poly for people to believe they have graduated when they have not.”

District Attorney Dan Dow

Students who have not graduated can walk as long as they agree to finish their degree requirements within two quarters, according to the Cal Poly Registrar’s Office.

During the expert witness hearing and in front of the jury, Nix also testified that she had taught an advanced psychology class at Cal Poly every quarter for five years for Connie Hanretty-Church. Hanretty-Church is a lecturer in the Psychology and Child Development Department.

“Have you taught any classes in the area of child forensic interviewing?” Manderino asked, according to the trial transcript.

“I have,” Nix testified.

“Could you describe that?” Manderino asked.

“For the last, I believe four to five years, I have taught once a quarter at Cal Poly, to the advanced psychology class about recognizing and assessing child abuse as well as very basic interviewing, forensic interviewing techniques,” Nix testified.

Church said in an email that Nix was not a lecturer or a teacher, but a guest speaker at the campus.

“Tracy was a guest speaker several years ago (2014) when I taught an upper division course entitled, “Child Abuse and Neglect,” Hanretty-Church wrote in an email. “She was a regular guest speaker for several years, can’t recall if it two or three years.”

Nix continues to insist she was a guest lecturer at the university, as does Dow.

“I have just spoken with Connie Hanretty Church, the Cal Poly Lecturer who used Ms. Nix as a guest teacher/lecturer in her classes,” Dow wrote in an email. “Ms. Hanretty-Church has confirmed that Ms. Nix indeed taught in her classes regularly over several years.”

Lecturer is a formal academic rank used by universities including Cal Poly.

Nix’s testimony was part of the DA’s case that resulted in Ronald Cowan’s conviction on sodomy, oral copulation and lewd acts with a child. He was sentenced to 65 years to life in state prison.

In Feb. 2017, the state appeals court reversed the decision based on prosecutorial misconduct. Manderino “had told the jury that the presumption of innocence applies only until the charges are read,” according to the appellate court decision.

Ronald Cowan

The Cowan case is schedule to be retried next month in the San Luis Obispo Courthouse. Dow did not respond to questions over whether or not the district attorney’s office plans to have Nix testify at the upcoming trial.

Even though Dow says that Nix did not commit perjury, he has begun to notify attorneys about her lack of a degree.

Under a U.S. Supreme court case (Napue v. Illinois), prosecutors have a responsibility to correct the testimony of witnesses they know to be false. Prosecutors also have an obligation to inform other defendants about issues over the credibility of their witnesses.

“Our office is actively taking steps to notify each defendant’s attorney (in cases where Ms. Nix testified as a witness) of the fact that Ms. Nix did not receive a diploma awarding a bachelor degree,” Dow wrote in an email.  “It will be up to each defendant and their counsel to decide whether it is a significant enough issue in their individual case to warrant filing of a motion with the court.”

While Nix admits she did not graduate from Cal Poly, she stands by a number of other statements she wrote in her resume.

In a 2018 resume, Nix wrote that she worked in Toulumne County in the 90’s as a child forensic interview specialist, a job the human resources department in Toulumne County said does not exist.

In a recent email, Nix wrote that while her job classification was social worker, she was assigned as a child interview specialist in both Toulumne and San Luis Obispo counties.

Until recently, Nix was classified as a social worker IV, a job that currently requires at least a bachelors degree, according to SLO County’s job class specifications. At the time Nix was promoted to social worker IV, the position did not require a college degree.

A few months ago, Dow changed Nix’s job classification to program manager, which does not require a college degree.

During her opening statement in the Cowan case, Manderino referred to Nix as an investigator, a title that was later repeated by the appellate court in a published decision. During the trial, Manderino refers to Nix using several titles, but never social worker.

“Social Worker is a very generic job classification and does not precisely describe or reflect the specific duties that Ms. Nix performs as a child forensic interviewer for our Bureau of Investigations,” Dow wrote in an email. “She is squarely a member of our investigative team who obtains evidence through her expertise as a child forensic interviewer.”

Also in her resume, Nix says she interviewed a child and provided expert testimony and consultation in a case against the Orcutt Unified School District.

But the case recently settled and never went to trial. Clay Hall, the attorney for the school district, hired Nix to work as a consultant and an expert witness, he said.

Tracy Nix

“I don’t believe she interviewed the child,” Hall said. “She did not testify as an expert witness, the case settled.”

In a recent email, Nix confirmed she never provided expert testimony in the Orcutt Unified School District case. She said, however, that she did testify as an expert witness for the county in 2014, as she wrote in her resume.

Tracy Nix and her husband SLO County Sheriff Commander Aaron Nix filed a chapter 13 bankruptcy several years ago. The pair makes approximately $300,000 a year in salary and benefits, according to Transparent California.

For more than four years, Tracy Nix has supported the political campaigns of both District Attorney Dan Dow and Sheriff Ian Parkinson. On Facebook, Tracy Nix has asked her friends to vote for Dow and to contact her in order to get a ball cap promoting Parkinson’s campaign.

Even though Nix has now confirmed she never graduated from Cal Poly, Nix wrote Sunday on Facebook that she is planning to attend grad school, saying she knows much more now than she did while working on her undergrad degree.

Tracy Nix Resume by Cal Coast Times on Scribd


Social Worker Requirements COUNTY OF SAN LUIS OBISPO by Cal Coast Times on Scribd


Even if she really believed at the time she “walked” that she had fulfilled all of the requirements for graduation (which I think it highly unlikely), the failure of her diploma to arrive in the mail would have prompted her to call to her department to inquire why.



Anyone who’s earned a diploma wants to receive their diploma.

Do people honestly not know they haven’t earned one—I highly doubt it.

Mitch C

This is a lot to do over nothing. If she did the job as expected by those who relied on her, so be it.


Mitch, I think you’re missing the basic premise… she lies.


I think you’re missing the basic premise, InTheKnowing….sure she lied. But she lied for the right reasons……she’s on the side of “good.” And if the good people like Dan Dow need a few lies to help them put people in jail, then aren’t those lies actually a good thing?

When are we going to move past the archaic notions of Truth and Honesty? When can we put behind us the quasi-religious BS about integrity and ethics?

Lying for a good cause is nothing more than doing good! (sarcasm is abundant in this post.)

The only downside to having expert witnesses lie in court is….well…..there isn’t a downside! Lies aren’t the problem. The problem is that people don’t go to jail as much as they should, and Mrs. Nix is helping to right that wrong.


Oh brother!

Good luck in your life if you truly believe that justifying the end result stems from breaking a few rules in order to do the right things.


DocT many law enforcement genuinely believe what you just stated tongue in cheek.


You’re right Mitch, who cares if she misrepresented (lied) about her qualifications and the county is paying her accordingly. Maybe we should all be ok with phony pilots jumping in a cockpit as long as they can land the plane safely too! H*ll, lets get some imposter to run the Sanitation District, maybe save a few bucks so we can spend it on litigation later.


This is an example of why community needs to be strong. This is deserving of a call to action. Ethical people don’t lie at the expense of children and this woman is lying and putting ABUSED children at risk. She “thought” she had a degree but CONTINUES to lie on social media about pursuing a Masters Degree. Lied to the court. Lies to her community on social media. Children deserve BETTER. …….completely enraged and would never trust our children to this person so that your children can get justice- just to have to overturned. Smf

George Bailey


San Luis Obispo District Attorney has a strained relationship with the truth, and this case perfectly illustrates his ethical lapses. A college graduate is someone who has earned the degree, not someone who merely ‘walked’ in the graduation ceremony itself, and the fact that DA Dan Dow would attempt to justify presenting a lying expert witness to the court speaks poorly of both his judgement and his conduct as a court officer. We deserve better.

This case involves perjury and introducing false testimony before a court, and DA dan Dow and expert witness Tracy Nix both owe us an explanation beyond their current denial and deceit. Claiming to have taught a course for several years when, in fact, she was an occasional guest speaker is not a mix up, it is intentionally misrepresenting the truth under oath. For DA Dan Dow to allow his assistants to use this liar is conduct unbecoming a court officer, and his denials and lame attempt to justify presenting an unqualified expert witness in court trials where citizens face the loss of their freedom is inexcusable, and calls into question whether taxpayers can trust DA Dan Dow holding the position of SLO County District Attorney.

The standard for citizens being prosecuted ethically by our government should always be preserved, and if we cannot trust these in positions of responsibility to, in fact, act responsibly, who can we trust?

We deserve better.


JB Bronson

In SLO County, women are part of the “good ole boy” system.

Pretty weak response from Dow. If you or I lie like that, we would be in legal trouble.


I agree with your assessment, especially, when considering who her husband is.

I would imagine Sheriff Ian Parkinson would not want to be associated with this couple during these troubled times in our county and country.

Mr. Dow in case he hasn’t figured it out as yet, needs to stand tall and take more positive decisive action as compared to what he has done to date that was only required of him. Ms. Nix is a problem for the county and for him.


Correction… who her family member is


Ms. Nix’s values are terribly skewed. How can someone who embellishes their standing be trusted to convey what is accurate.

More importantly, Ms. Nix deals with people who have serious valid issues needing avenues of help for a clear path for quality of life.

Having said that perhaps Ms. Nix needs help in understanding what ethics mean. In her case a course in this domain would be helpful and necessary with some counseling to assist in distinguishing fact from fiction.


Great. Now every molestor she has testified against will be set free and sue the taxpayers. Lock her up for perjury. Lock the DA up for stupidity.


The opposite of the truth is a lie, no matter how minor or misunderstood or made for all of the right reasons. Whether a person does or does not have a degree is not proof of a person’s intelligence or experience or knowledge . . . it does, however, give us a glimpse into the moral and ethical standards of that person. How can we demand truth and honesty anywhere in our country when we do not demand it from our President??


Amazing, everything with a negative spin always has to come back to our wonderful, effective, productive and straight forward speaking President Trump. “jhagstro” needs a life or a good book and I can recommend “The Art of the Deal”.


Why not spin it back onto to your “wonderful, effective, productive and straight forward speaking President Trump.” who lies at every opportunity without remorse? Mrs. Nix is probably an ardent supporter of your Liar in Chief, seeing him as example of how the privileged and connected can get away with murder (yea, even that!) and do so while making huge profits.

Until we hold those in the highest places of leadership to the same standards you’d want from the likes of this liar, it’s open season for all who purvey in lies.

“By a lie a man throws away and, as it were, annihilates his dignity as a man. A man who himself does not believe what he tells another … has even less worth than if he were a mere thing. … makes himself a mere deceptive appearance of man, not man himself.” – Immanuel Kant

By-the-way, is lying now considered straight forward speaking? It is?!!! Wow! I guess it’s just another way for the Republican Regressive Party to overstate their belief if you say something enough it does become the truth…


Pretty Stupid Stuff , In today’s time its about Honesty , She is too young to have time in the field.. I have 30 years in the trade of Design , But I can not Call myself a Architect. If I did I’m sure half of SLO would report me to the AIA Board. Put that in your pipe and smoke it , you blue dogs.. Facts are facts ..


“”Whether a person does or does not have a degree is not proof of a person’s intelligence or experience or knowledge . . . it does, however, give us a glimpse into the moral and ethical standards of that person. “” <——–THIS!!

Let's just back up and state a few facts:

1. Mrs. Nix provided services that were almost always helpful to the prosecution/police/jail industry.

2. She personally campaigns for Parkinson, Dow, etc.

3. She's married to a sheriff.

4. She made false statements on her resume

5. She made false statements in court

6. She is on record of making a false statement on social media as of this morning: "I'll be attending grad school!" Unless "grad schools" allow people who don't have college degrees to get advanced degrees, this is false.

This gives us a whole new definition to "padding the resume!" I find it interesting that it comes from a person who literally can put someone in jail based on her words and testimony!

Here's a question: If she lied multiple times about her credentials, and has exaggerated her experience, is it possible she may have exaggerated and/or padded her expert testimony in order to help her friends obtain convictions?

The only rational answer to this is YES! Every case she has ever testified in needs to be re-tried. This should only cost the taxpayers a few dozen million, so no big deal.

In the meantime, Mrs. Nix will no doubt continue to provide helpful service to the prosecutors, who are tasked with filling up the jails and prisons.


Maybe she has other “Talents” that are necessary to the District Attorney’s office so these minor foibles were overlooked?


I’m sure she’ll exaggerate the other talents she doesn’t quite possess too.

What irks me is a worry that due to her embellished and legally UN-qualified expert testimony, there are probably people in cages who are innocent.

In addition to that, some of the people who are guilty may escape justice because in a re-trial they can impeach her testimony and have it removed from the record…..which may very well allow actual evil people to escape justice and commit more crime.

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