"The outcome -- I was stunned," she said of the jury's verdict. "I believed that what I did was right. I don't think the jury connected with me. They felt this family needed help."
One of the jurors, Beverly Provo, said the evidence left her with the impression that deputies "just busted in and started shooting." She said sympathy for the Plasencia family played a role in deliberations.
"It was really a tragedy," Provo said during a recent interview in her Inglewood home. "I felt so bad for them because they lost their father."
The verdict's sting lingered, Hutchens said. For years, she had a recurring dream in which she faced a life-and-death situation and her weapon would not fire.
"It was hard to talk about for a while," she said. "Taking somebody's life does impact you."
During at an interview at his home in Phoenix, Anderson said Plasencia left his partner with no choice but to shoot.
"Pointing an empty gun at a cop is right up there with things not to do," he said. "He must not have realized she was a deputy."
In the months that followed the shooting, Hutchens and Anderson became close, drawn together by the New Year's Eve shooting and their stressful assignment.
They married in August 1981, less than two years after the shooting. They divorced in 1994.
Anderson, who retired as a sergeant, blames himself for the failed marriage.
"In those days I was dealing with stress with the help of some alcohol," he said.
Hutchens later married Larry Hutchens, a retired assistant chief with the Los Angeles Unified School District police. They live in Dana Point.
Shortly after the shooting, Hutchens was assigned to work patrol shifts without a partner. At one point, she decided she wanted only a female partner, a request her supervisor denied. Women could partner only with male deputies, she was told.
Incensed, she wrote then-Sheriff Sherman Block and argued that it was a contradiction to allow women to work patrol shifts alone but insist that their partners must be men. She later became part of one of the department's first two-woman patrol units.
"I loved it. It was the best time of my career," she said of her patrol work.
Hutchens rose through the ranks of the Sheriff's Department, working as a sergeant, lieutenant and eventually captain in charge of the Norwalk station, where she was responsible for dozens of deputies. When her deputies were involved in shootings, she said, she knew what they were going through.
"I always just ask them, 'Are you OK?' " she said. "I always make sure they have someone with them and they're not put in a room alone.
"You can't assume cops are so tough that if they're involved in a shooting they'll be OK. Some are. Some aren't," she said.
She understands that patrol work can be gritty. She wants deputies who are proactive, as she was.
"If I looked in someone's personnel file and didn't see anything in there, I'd wonder, 'What have you been doing? '" Hutchens said. "I'd expect to see some citizen complaint or use-of-force or something."
When she retired from the Los Angeles County department last year, Hutchens was a division chief in charge of the department's Office of Homeland Security. Among other things, she was responsible for the department's SWAT and gang enforcement units. One of her top assistants was Lt. J.P. Harris, with whom she'd taken her first patrol ride-along.
"She's a leader. She listens to people. She's not afraid to have people around her who are smarter or have better ideas," Harris said. "She's got everything that department needs. They are so lucky."