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Verdict in Hans Reiser Murder Trial
April 28, 2008 3:24 PM   Subscribe


 
In the wake of this decision, they've decided to rename ReiserFS.

It's now called oj_FS.
posted by porn in the woods at 3:28 PM on April 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


front page of sfgate sez he's indeed guilty.
posted by porn in the woods at 3:29 PM on April 28, 2008


I've been following this case on Wired -- well, following the court illustrations anyway -- and he looked crazy-ass guilty in those!
posted by mazola at 3:34 PM on April 28, 2008


*insert pointer to file system joke here*
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:39 PM on April 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


sudo useradd -g users -d /var/chroot/ -s /usr/bin/jail reiser
posted by seanyboy at 3:40 PM on April 28, 2008 [21 favorites]


Oh, the jokes are starting.

Y'know what the pivotal evidence in the trial was?

Hans' diaries. Seems he was really into journaling.
posted by Viomeda at 3:41 PM on April 28, 2008 [16 favorites]


Video of the verdict being read (kinda boring). I'm very surprised, it's usually difficult to get a guilty verdict with no body/no confession. It's good news though, and makes me feel a little better after reading about that awful Austrian incest dungeon thing.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:44 PM on April 28, 2008


The state couldn't even prove she was dead, much less that Reiser killed her. But the prosecutor knew he could get your typical dumbass American jury to convict a nerd of damned near anything. So much for justice.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 3:44 PM on April 28, 2008 [6 favorites]


Sorry Viomeda, that joke was already used in the title of the last post.
posted by puke & cry at 3:47 PM on April 28, 2008


Well, the question is : How's the evidence? Will get get it overturned? etc. Well, the conviction itself is maybe enough for many future business partners & such.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:49 PM on April 28, 2008


Sorry Viomeda, that joke was already used in the title of the last post.

Yes. And it's also made slightly less funny by the fact that he murdered his wife when she came by to drop off his two young children. Good lord, people. Maybe a moment reflection?
posted by The Bellman at 3:51 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Crabby, do you not think he did it, or do you not think they proved it? I was personally surprised that they even brought it to trial with what little evidence they had, but I can't bring myself to care all that much when it seems very likely that he did it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:55 PM on April 28, 2008


This despite the fact that his wife was fucking a confessed serial killer.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:55 PM on April 28, 2008


Sorry, broken link. Here.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:58 PM on April 28, 2008


In other local news

You do realize he's internet famous, which means it's not local news?
posted by smackfu at 4:03 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


WTF?! I hope they find that woman alive, if only to use her as a psycho magnet honeypot.
posted by DU at 4:10 PM on April 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


Inspector.Gadget: "15This despite the fact that his wife was fucking a confessed serial killer."

Wow. That link is whack from A-to-Sadomasochism. Even the indirect writing of the story is weird:

A former lover of the missing wife of Linux programmer and accused spouse killer Hans Reiser has confessed to killing eight people unrelated to the case, prosecutors informed the defense last week...

Nonetheless, he vigorously denied killing Nina Reiser. "I've never been a threat to Nina Reiser," Sturgeon said. "I will take a lie-detector test. I will take whatever passes for truth serum these days." He also indicated that the evidence pointed to Hans Reiser's guilt. "I will not take credit for what another has done," he said. "Let Hans take a lie-detector test about Nina."

posted by iamkimiam at 4:14 PM on April 28, 2008


This despite the fact that his wife was fucking a confessed serial killer.

Yeah. Reiser's a bucket full of Froot Loops, for sure. But how one can be convicted of murder when there isn't even strong evidence that she's anything more than missing and there's a much better suspect if she has been murdered?

I get the feeling that many juries don't understand what "reasonable doubt" means.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 4:16 PM on April 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


Does California have the death penalty for first-degree murder?
posted by acb at 4:19 PM on April 28, 2008


Yes, it does.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 4:20 PM on April 28, 2008


That's a killer filesystem you got there.
posted by furtive at 4:22 PM on April 28, 2008


You would think that if that Sturgeon confession to multiple murders had a shred of veracity, somebody in law enforcement or the media would have picked up on it? Am I expecting too much? I mean, it only makes the story *more* interesting as far as I'm concerned, but that Wired piece remains the only primary source for the story--everything else I can find is just quoting back to it.
posted by padraigin at 4:26 PM on April 28, 2008


Wow, BrotherCaine, for me to say that it's "good news" that a person was convicted of murder, I'd have to be damned sure he actually committed the crime. For you, I suppose "very likely" is good enough. I'm curious—when you hear about someone being released from death row upon being exonerated by DNA evidence, is that good news or bad news to you? How do you think so many people end up wrongly convicted of murder? I imagine it's by a process similar to the one that led to Reiser's conviction.

To answer your question, it seems clear to me that the state did not adequately prove their case, and so the jury should have voted to acquit. I don't know whether he actually killed her. If he did kill her, I hope he is punished for it. Based on what I've read about the case (e.g., the Sturgeon angle), I think there's a lot of room for doubt.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 4:34 PM on April 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


How do you think so many people end up wrongly convicted of murder? I imagine it's by a process similar to the one that led to Reiser's conviction.

Yeah, there's a well-known bias among police and prosecuters against white nerds. Obviously they rail-roaded him because he was a programmer.
posted by Snyder at 4:43 PM on April 28, 2008


(puts on his devil's advocate's hat)

On the other hand, it would be easy for a murderer who did his research and put some thought into it (as Reiser was shown to be capable of) to dispose of a body so it could not be found. And, unless Sturgeon was convicted of serial killing, his boasts are just that. (By Occam's Razor, someone who boasts of being a serial killer is more likely to be some kind of fucked-up fantasist than an actual serial killer.)
posted by acb at 4:47 PM on April 28, 2008


Crabby, the standard of proof is "beyond a reasonable doubt". My use of the phrase "very likely" is because there is always a doubt, reasonable or not, in any conviction. I agree that from an outsider perspective it seems that a reasonable doubt exists given what appears to be a lack of evidence. However, I'm not in the habit of second-guessing the competence of juries (in either direction). I have argued in the past that the state did not have enough evidence to proceed to trial, but it appears that Reiser sabotaged his own defense enough to prove their case for them. If there really wasn't enough evidence to make the case, and the jury verdict was made in error, it is the moral responsibility of the judge to vacate the verdict.

I'm well aware that "so many people end up wrongly convicted of murder". I don't think that is the case here. I could be persuaded that the jury failed to recognize a reasonable doubt, but only by someone who sat through the whole trial.

Also, regarding the death penalty, I believe it requires a convicition of murder in the first degree with special circumstances rather than just murder in the 1st.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:55 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


After reading Wired's report of the verdict and wrap-up of the trial, it sounds like Reiser had a chance until he took the stand.

Providing highly detailed and weird-sounding explanations for certain arbitrary behaviors and no excuse at all for others is about the best way to convince the jury that he was hiding something without ever having to admit that he was hiding something. He wasn't convicted because he was a geek, but because he was mouthy and unlikeable. Even thought we like to believe the court is where innocence and guilt are proven, a trial is a battle of rhetoric, not logic.
posted by ardgedee at 5:02 PM on April 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


Ah. So now we're against Habeas Corpus. I guess I missed that memo.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:04 PM on April 28, 2008


No, Snyder, they rail-roaded him because they could. They could because he's an unsympathetic computer nerd who might have Asperger's syndrome, and acts like it.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 5:05 PM on April 28, 2008




(By Occam's Razor, someone who boasts of being a serial killer is more likely to be some kind of fucked-up fantasist than an actual serial killer.)

Well, if you have two possible suspects for a murder, and one of the suspects claims to have already killed 8 other people, I'd would say "Occam's Razor" would dictate that the one who claims to have killed 8 other people is the killer. Of course, Occam's actual Razor has nothing to do with this case People say it means "The simplest explanation is probably right" but most people mean it as "the explanation that most fits with my preconceived biases is probably right."

The other problem is we know this Sean Sturgeon guy at least brags about murdering people who he doesn't like, and we know he'd taken Nina's side in this dispute. Does that mean he'd be willing to, if not kill Reiser, then frame him for Nina's murder (with her co operation)?
In his 11 days of testimony, Reiser offered lengthy and verbose explanations for every piece of circumstantial evidence. But Reiser's version of events often drew disbelieving head shakes from jurors — and occasional smirks from the trial judge.

In a characteristic exchange under cross-examination, Reiser tried to explain why he'd removed and discarded the passenger seat from his two-seater Honda CRX after Nina vanished. His explanation: He'd been sleeping in the vehicle, and wanted the extra room. Asked why he hosed down the inside of the car, leaving an inch of water on the floorboard, he explained that the interior was dirty, and he mistakenly believed the water would drain out.
So, it sounds like he basically implicated himself, and would probably have walked if he'd chosen not to testify. Oh well.
posted by delmoi at 5:17 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, you know it's just one of those things, the American justice system is flawed (and very easy to manipulate against people you want to find guilty, historically the poor and racial minorities) but:

When police eventually located Hans Reiser's Honda CRX a few miles from his home, they found the interior waterlogged, the passenger seat missing, and two books on police murder investigations inside. They also found a sleeping-bag cover stained with a 6-inch wide blotch of Nina's dried blood. Reiser later testified that the couple had sex in the sleeping bag on a camping trip prior to their 2004 separation.

(on preview, quoted by Delmoi)

I mean, I know people with nerdy Asperger's tendencies and that sounds more like crazy chop-chop kill my soon to be ex-wife and fuck up the cover-up tendencies, but YMMV.
posted by Divine_Wino at 5:23 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Soooo, wait. OJ gets acquitted, and this guy gets convicted?
BLACK IS WHITE. UP IS DOWN. CALIFORNIA IS FILLED WITH PEOPLE I WOULD TRUST ON A JURY.
posted by exlotuseater at 5:27 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Linux finally has a killer app.
posted by aerotive at 5:27 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


No, Snyder, they rail-roaded him because they could. They could because he's an unsympathetic computer nerd who might have Asperger's syndrome, and acts like it.
I've followed the trial a bit as it unfolded, and frankly I don't buy the 'he couldn't defend himself because he has Asperger's' angle. I've worked in software development for about a decade and I've met my share of antisocial edge-case types. "I don't relate well to others" is not a get-out-of-explaining-profoundly-suspicious-behavior-free card.

The explanations Reiser offered for deeply strange actions (like, say, removing the passenger's seat of his car and destroying it, then hosing out the interior of the car immediately after his wife went missing) boiled down to, "I'm super-smart and don't relate well to others, so you have to accept my absurd explanation." Was the case weak? Maybe. Did his social issues make it much, much harder for him to defend himself effectively? Yeah. But that's where the reasonable part of reasonable doubt comes in. Reiser, for better or worse, argued vigorously that people had to accept unreasonable explanations for his actions because he's special.
posted by verb at 5:30 PM on April 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


I heard that the prosecution had lots of little files on him.
posted by SteveTheRed at 5:31 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


(I'm not saying that this guy isn't guilty. At all.)
posted by exlotuseater at 5:33 PM on April 28, 2008


So what does this mean for Reiser4's development?
posted by wtdoor at 5:59 PM on April 28, 2008


you guys realize he gets any number of appeals, right? I don't think they will help, because he sounds guilty as sin, but he gets appeals.

Yes, our justice system is flawed, like every other justice system in history. But false convictions don't happen to people who can afford good lawyers, or to people whose case gets extensive media coverage. If by some bizarre chance he is innocent, it will come out on appeal.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:03 PM on April 28, 2008


But false convictions don't happen to people who can afford good lawyers, or to people whose case gets extensive media coverage.

That's either the most naive thing I've read this week or the most brilliantly sarcastic thing I've read all month.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 6:29 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ah. So now we're against Habeas Corpus. I guess I missed that memo.

Except that Habeas Corpus does not mean "produce the body of the victim." It means, "produce the body of the prisoner to a court that will determine your right to hold him." It certainly seems that Reiser had that right respected. Given how the judge and his lawyer repeatedly attempted to protect him from his own actions in the courtroom that could prejudice the case, I don't think he was railroaded either.

You don't need a body to prove murder in most jurisdictions either, given substantial evidence that a murder has been committed. And a big-ass bloodstain, a missing car seat, a flooded car, and a missing person strike me as very suspicious indeed.

And on a related subject, I'm skeptical that most of these nerds self-diagnosing themselves as Asberger's or autism-spectrum are much more than mostly neuro-typical self-absorbed wankers. The same goes for claims to be strongly left-brained, or so Meyers-Briggs INTJ that you just can't be bothered having a civil conversation.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:34 PM on April 28, 2008 [14 favorites]


The Charlie project has more information on convictions/acquittals in cases without a body, and a cursory browsing of the convictions reveals most of them involved confessions by the murderer or co-conspirator, eyewitness testimony that a crime occurred, a history of domestic violence, or death threats against the alleged victim prior to their disappearance.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:40 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Soooo, wait. OJ gets acquitted, and this guy gets convicted?
BLACK IS WHITE. UP IS DOWN. CALIFORNIA IS FILLED WITH PEOPLE I WOULD TRUST ON A JURY.


This is the first time on the Internets that I've seen someone protest Reiser's innocence, because he's white and OJ is black and (assumed) guilty. Guess there's a first time for everything.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:16 PM on April 28, 2008


He wasn't convicted because he was a geek, but because he was mouthy and unlikeable.

Well, that and he had means, motive and opportunity -- in spades.

The state couldn't even prove she was dead, much less that Reiser killed her.

That's precisely what the state *did* do. Circumstantial evidence might not be as clear cut as direct evidence, but when you've got a shed load of the stuff, it starts to look pretty damn compelling. At least, it does to people who *aren't* Aspergic. I can see how people suffering from Aspergers might think that because they believe that the law shouldn't work that way, it gets them a free pass, and juries aren't entitled to draw certain inferences based upon the preponderance of evidence, but as we've seen in this trial, they'd be mistaken about that.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:27 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well said, PeterMcDermott. People so often seem to mistake "reasonable doubt" with "any doubt." Of course it's possible that a woman might have bloody sex with her husband on a sleeping bag, which is never washed, and then disappear completely without leaving a trace or even a message to her kids, just after visiting her estranged husband (who just happens to tear a seat out of his car and soak the car down with water, because he thinks that car floors have drains, just after she just happens to go missing). Did that happen? The jury reasonably doubts it.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:50 PM on April 28, 2008


"Reiser, for better or worse, argued vigorously that people had to accept unreasonable explanations"

You didn't say anything that was actually wrong, but your post makes it sound like you don't know what reasonable doubt means. Reiser doesn't have to argue anything. The defense doesn't have to get anyone to accept anything. The prosecution has to prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. What strong evidence did they present that she was even dead?

"I can see how people ... might think that ... juries [can't] draw ... inferences based upon the preponderance of evidence, but ... they'd be mistaken about that."

No, they wouldn't be mistaken about that. A mere preponderance is insufficient for any element of a criminal conviction.

"The jury reasonably doubts it."

Man, I hope you're never on a jury for anything I'm ever accused of.

You know, this country might not imprison well over 1% of its population if people would actually learn what their friggin' civic duties are. Based on the reaction of this board, man oh man. You really think that the jury "reasonably doubting" the defense's story is sufficient to convict him of murder? What the f#ck is wrong with you people?
posted by jock@law at 9:09 PM on April 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well, jock, you can argue with Peter using the word "preponderance," but I took him to mean "corpus delicti may be established in its entirety by circumstantial evidence," which is what the judge told the jury in this case. Are you saying that's not true?
posted by Bookhouse at 9:32 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


"What strong evidence did they present that she was even dead?"

1. Neither her mother nor her children have heard from her since she vanished, and she had close relationships with all of them
2. Her bank accounts have not been used since she vanished
3. Her credit cards have not been used since she vanished
4. Her passport was found in her home
5. She did not purchase tickets for travel before or after she vanished

I'd say that, plus the missing car seat, plus the bloody sleeping bag, plus the history of violence in the marriage, plus whatever else the prosecution presented added up to a pretty solid body of evidence. Twelve jurors certainly thought it did.

"You really think that the jury "reasonably doubting" the defense's story is sufficient to convict him of murder?"

That's not where reasonable doubt comes into play. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
posted by optovox at 9:32 PM on April 28, 2008


So basically he'll win on appeal by (a) shutting the f*ck up and (b) getting a better lawyer. But the jokes are gold. :P
posted by jeffburdges at 9:55 PM on April 28, 2008


Re some comments upthread about Sean Sturgeon, from what I recall, the judge did not allow the defense to tell the jury of Sturgeon's confession to killing eight people.
posted by zippy at 10:12 PM on April 28, 2008


"That's not where reasonable doubt comes into play. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

I know that and you know that. The quoted poster doesn't seem to know that.

"corpus delicti may be established in its entirety by circumstantial evidence"

It may, but it has to be strong circumstantial evidence. The allowance of circumstantial evidence doesn't negate the burden of "beyond a reasonable doubt," which is a far higher standard than "by the preponderance of the evidence."

The only time I know of where corpus delicti may be proved by a preponderance of the evidence is when that proof is to corroborate a confession. As far as I know, Reiser didn't confess, so a preponderance standard seems inappropriate.

The judge's choice to use the phrase "corpus delicti" is an odd one. It has a narrow technical meaning -- the nucleus of a crime. But almost the only time it's litigated is when there's a confession; a "corpus delicti rule" is almost always about what the standard of proof in addition to a confession it takes to prove a crime committed. So essentially the judge used a highly complicated term, that usually refers to a highly complicated legal evidentiary argument, and made it a needless part of the jury instruction.

I wish I could see the transcript of the trial. I'm not so confident that I'd accuse the judge of impropriety, but I certainly wouldn't be shocked by it.
posted by jock@law at 10:13 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm skeptical that most of these nerds self-diagnosing themselves as Asberger's or autism-spectrum are much more than mostly neuro-typical self-absorbed wankers.

Simpler explanation: The Internet causes Aspergers.

I'm waiting for my Nobel Prize.
posted by rokusan at 10:27 PM on April 28, 2008


And add to that:
6. Purse and $100 worth of rotting vegetables left in a car.

There was a similar missing persons case here in my hometown, and it was pretty clear after the first few weeks that everyone was looking for a corpse. There was a total lack of evidence that she had obtained even the minimal resources needed for a vanishing act. And it wasn't much of a surprise when hunters stumbled over the body almost a decade later.

The more I think about this case, the more I feel that there is no reasonable doubt that some form of foul play happened. You have at least four converging lines of evidence only make sense if Nina Reiser was a victim of a crime, and Hans Reiser attempted to cover it up:

1) More than 60 witnesses with collaborating stories about violence within the marriage and Nina's disappearance inconsistent with her family relationships.

2) Strong evidence that her disappearance was spontaneous and unplanned, and if she did rabbit from the country she used unknown resources and networks.

3) Blood evidence from Hans Reiser's vehicle that is consistent with a serious injury demanding medical attention. And blood evidence from his home.

4) A number of actions taken by Hans Reiser after Nina Reiser's disappearance that make sense as an attempt to destroy physical evidence, but make little sense as a series of unrelated events.

Four lines of evidence supporting a single theory of a crime, strikes me as being a stronger case than an eyewitness to the actual murder.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:38 PM on April 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


KirkJobSluder wrote:
You don't need a body to prove murder in most jurisdictions either, given substantial evidence that a murder has been committed. And a big-ass bloodstain, a missing car seat, a flooded car, and a missing person strike me as very suspicious indeed.


Jesus, I'd better burn the sheets and get my SO back from Kansas pronto because if someone decides she's disappeared, I'm fucked.

Alternatively, if I decided to disappear, my SO could be equally fucked. I'd better burn my undershirts. People bleed, dude. Women do it every month. I do it even more regularly. (thanks, nose!)

I once lost a Super Nintendo. Never did find it. I could easily see myself misplacing a car seat, say by taking it out at a friend's house and leaving in their practically unused but full of crap garage. Of course, I wouldn't take one out of my car, unless it was to clean the absolutely nasty carpet inside. I have no opinion as to Reiser's guilt, but there are all kinds in the world. Some of us are forgetful. Some of us bleed. Some of us notice little things while forgetting what we had for lunch yesterday, and some of us act weird.

God knows my Muslim neighbors sure act weird, anyway. I mean, if you're going to make your wife ride in the back, you should at least get something with a bigger back seat than a cheap Nissan.

P.S. There I go bleeding again. Popped a capillary in my nose because people are so fucking unaware of the differences between the people surrounding them.
posted by wierdo at 10:43 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Four lines of evidence supporting a single theory of a crime, strikes me as being a stronger case than an eyewitness to the actual murder.

Circumstantial evidence, despite the pop-culture misunderstanding of the term, is often the best, most useful, and most actionable evidence. Eyewitnesses, on the other hand, are notoriously unreliable. This is like Criminal Law 101 stuff.

(I thought there was a MeFi post last year on the fallibility of eyewitness accounts, but I can't find it to cite. It must have been some lesser website.)
posted by rokusan at 10:51 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Bookhouse wrote: Of course it's possible that a woman might have bloody sex with her husband on a sleeping bag, which is never washed

Blood doesn't wash out, you know, at least not if you're not very prompt about washing it. See the aforementioned sheets. And some people have no problem having sex when the woman is menstruating. However, that is freakish enough behavior to be proof of almost anything. So is being slovenly and not washing your sleeping bag regularly.

If I were a prosecutor, I wouldn't want me on a jury, because I have a finely honed bullshit meter and know when people are making shit up to try and sell a bill of goods, as prosecutors often do. I think that's largely a result of an inadequate amount of practice in a court of law, brought upon by most crimes being disposed of by plea bargain.
posted by wierdo at 10:53 PM on April 28, 2008


And the fact that another person of interest confessed to a whole bunch of unrelated crimes isn't reasonable doubt if half the evidence points to you cleaning up a bloody car, and the other half points to your acrimonious divorce.

weirdo: Alternatively, if I decided to disappear, my SO could be equally fucked. I'd better burn my undershirts. People bleed, dude. Women do it every month. I do it even more regularly. (thanks, nose!)

The only time I've seen a bloodstain bigger than a few drops was when I accidentally slashed my thumb open with a box cutter at work. I've also had plenty of bloody noses and some fairly rough sex as well. So yeah, if it was just the sleeping bag, I wouldn't buy it either. But throw in all the other evidence along with it, and trying to dismiss it all just because someone is "weird" becomes less and less reasonable.

weirdo: If I were a prosecutor, I wouldn't want me on a jury, because I have a finely honed bullshit meter and know when people are making shit up to try and sell a bill of goods, as prosecutors often do.

Pull the other one, it plays jingle bells.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:05 PM on April 28, 2008


Good lord, people. Maybe a moment reflection?

What, like a RAID array or just simple disk mirroring?

Sorry. I'm late.
posted by loquacious at 11:42 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


KirkJobSluder wrote: I've also had plenty of bloody noses

Apparently not like mine. I soak kleenex before they're over about 1 in 10 times. Once I woke up with a blood stain the size of a baseball on my pillow and blood all over my face. Maybe I'm weird. (Well, I know I'm weird, but maybe that is weird).

I guess spending many years with the bottom quarter of society brought me to know a lot of very weird people for whom these strange occurences are fairly normal. Yes, even washing out their car with a garden hose. Of course, I lived in Arkansas, and in their case, there were holes in the floorboard. The dumbass did end up growing a serious mildew infestation until he did it again, only this time with one of those liquid fertilizer sprayers and bleach water.

Hell, some of the meth-heads I have run into would have been more than happy to steal a car seat sitting out on somebody's lawn and trade it for some dope. (Or sell their own passenger seat, for that matter)

All that said, I wasn't there, so I can't say what the evidence actually presented was like. All I know is that if it was as weak as what has been presented in the media, it's a complete miscarriage of justice. I can only hope that the actual evidence was more substantial.
posted by wierdo at 11:51 PM on April 28, 2008


"I can only hope that the actual evidence was more substantial."

Clearly, it was.
posted by optovox at 11:59 PM on April 28, 2008


Elizabeth Loftus has written extensively on the unreliability of eyewitness testimony

Neither the defense nor the presecution tried to call Sean whatshisface as a witness (the one who 'confessed' to 8 murders) and general consensus is the guy was just making up his confessions. He has not been charged w/ anything and police did look into his claims.
posted by jcruelty at 12:10 AM on April 29, 2008


If I were a prosecutor, I wouldn't want me on a jury, because I have a finely honed bullshit meter and know when people are making shit up to try and sell a bill of goods, as prosecutors often do.

If I were a prosecutor, I wouldn't want you on a jury because you apparently think that the prosecution is the only side of a trial that lies.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:20 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is why Scottish law has three possible verdicts Guilty, Not Guilty and Not Proven, for cases like this one. Sure the prosecution made it look likely that his wife was dead, and likely that if she is dead he might be the killer, but they certainly failed to prove either thing and Reiser should have walked. Letting a possibly guilty person walk now and again is the price we are supposed to pay for a rigorous justice system based on proof.
posted by w0mbat at 12:50 AM on April 29, 2008


Four lines of evidence supporting a single theory of a crime, strikes me as being a stronger case than an eyewitness to the actual murder.

Indeed, when I used the term 'preponderance of evidence', it was this that I was referring to, rather than some legal technical standard whose meaning I'm still somewhat unclear about.

This absolutely seems to me to count as circumstantial evidence that's strong enough to overcome a reasonable doubt standard. As others have already pointed out, a reasonable doubt doesn't mean 'any possible doubt whatsoever'.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:53 AM on April 29, 2008


they certainly failed to prove either thing and Reiser should have walked.

The prosecution proved both beyond a reasonable doubt.
posted by optovox at 12:58 AM on April 29, 2008


The Charlie project has more information on convictions/acquittals in cases without a body, and a cursory browsing of the convictions reveals most of them involved confessions by the murderer or co-conspirator, eyewitness testimony that a crime occurred, a history of domestic violence, or death threats against the alleged victim prior to their disappearance.

That site has this to say about the concept of Corpus Delicti:
It is a common misconception that you cannot prove murder without a body. This error is the result of a misinterpretion of the legal term corpus delicti. Many people think this term means the body of a murdered person, when in fact, it means the body of evidence that proves a crime occured. Although it is difficult to convict someone of murder without the body of the victim, it happens, and it is happening more and more often due to advances in forensic science.
Didn't Reiser's prosecutors demonstrate both a history of domestic violence and death threats against the victim prior to her disappearance? Either way, here are some reported comments from a defense attorney who was following the case:
McGowan asked, "So what's the verdict going to be?"

Cardoza sighed. "It's going to be guilty. But what is (he) guilty of? My guess, if you put me on the spot, second-degree murder -- and they won't come back soon. They're not working Fridays, so my guess will be next Thursday."

McGowan asked what any sentence for second-degree murder would be, and Cardoza said, "15 to life." First-degree murder is 25 years to life and voluntary manslaughter is a term of up to 12 years, Cardoza said. (The state penal code, however, says "voluntary manslaughter is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for three, six, or eleven years." If Reiser is convicted of voluntary manslaughter, Goodman would have to choose between the three possible terms after weighing any aggravating or mitigating circumstances).

Cardoza said, "If they get voluntary manslaughter, I think the defense has really won in this case, because he'll serve 12 years, a portion of that 12 years."
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:22 AM on April 29, 2008


Well, I heard his latest offering is going to be called Bakery, because of the way the storage media is demarcated into subsections called Compressed Allocation Kibibit Expression Series, or CAKES, each of which has a file in it.
posted by Sparx at 4:26 AM on April 29, 2008


you guys realize he gets any number of appeals, right? I don't think they will help, because he sounds guilty as sin, but he gets appeals.

unlikely. there's no real question of law as far as i can see. the reviewing court would use some sort of clear error standard for reviewing the conclusions of the factfinder, and juries generally get lot of weight. because the use of circumstantial evidence is appropriate -- despite the mistaken impression some in this thread seem to be under about this -- there is simply no way that a court is going to reverse a jury decision on the argument that "no reasonable person could have come to that conclusion as a matter of law," which is what they'd have to do. the fact is that some people could reasonably come to that conclusion within the bounds of the law, and some did in this case, so there's really nothing to appeal.

unless there's some sort of procedural issue that i missed while reading all the trial coverage (and from what I read it seemed to me that the DA was very competent and also on his best behavior, while Reiser and his counsel certainly were not) that could form the basis of the appeal, reiser's done. he's off to sentencing now. best of luck to him; hopefully he'll come out of this a better person.
posted by spiderwire at 5:57 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Eyewitness testimony may very well be unreliable, but it often has the advantage of reducing the complexity of the jurors decisions. Circumstantial forensic evidence frequently seems to have no context but the arbitrarily assigned context of the prosecutor and defense narratives. For example, forensics might prove that the accused was present at the crime scene, but not when, or that an injury was done to the victim, but not who inflicted it. As the evidence is chained together it more strongly supports the narrative of the prosecution, but it can often be explained almost as well by several less likely narratives of the defense. Occam's razor is great for honing scientific theories, but is it equally valid for the often untestable hypothesis of the prosecutors?

Sorry if that was a bit inarticulate, it's late.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:04 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Neither the defense nor the presecution tried to call Sean whatshisface as a witness (the one who 'confessed' to 8 murders) and general consensus is the guy was just making up his confessions. He has not been charged w/ anything and police did look into his claims.

He was also one of the first people to call Nina (along with her current boyfriend) when it seemed she was missing. They were trying to find her. Reiser never called her after she disappeared or lifted a finger to try to find her, unlike the "psychopath."

Letting a possibly guilty person walk now and again is the price we are supposed to pay for a rigorous justice system based on proof.

You're proposing that if there's no body, there's no crime; that's essentially the only argument the defense had at the end. The problem with that argument is that if that were the rule, then all killers would just be extra-double-careful disposing of their bodies, and no one could responsible for murder, ever! The patent absurdity of that suggestion is the reason we allow for circumstantial evidence to fill in the gaps around the alleged murder.

This case was a good example of how the defense was able to create a "reasonable doubt" story for most of the individual suspicious bits of the story, but how, when you added it all up, it became painfully clear that there was really only one thing that could explain all of it beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury had to perhaps make some more leaps than in a trial with more direct evidence on the table, but that's the jury's job -- to me, this circumstantial evidence was actually more persuasive than a lot of direct evidence often is (eyewitness testimony, confessions, sworn statements, blah blah). The circumstantial evidence, at least, speaks for itself.

Anyway, given that the jury was being asked to make inferences about the evidence (this being a perfectly legitimate part of their factfinding duty), it was certainly a huge error for Reiser to antagonize them and the court like he did; they had to be willing to put themselves in his shoes and see him as a nice but misunderstood person (a "platypus," as Du Bois called him -- also a stupid strategy btw), when it was pretty clear from the get-go that he was just a colossal asshole. So the verdict is not at all surprising to me.
posted by spiderwire at 6:15 AM on April 29, 2008


"That's not where reasonable doubt comes into play. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

I know that and you know that. The quoted poster doesn't seem to know that.
Since I'm the quoted poster, I'll step in and resolve this little bit of confusion. As it turns out, I am familiar with the novel legal concept of 'innocence until guilt is proven!' I hope this clears up some things for you.

You say that the defendant has 'nothing to prove.' While this is technically true, if the defendant is faced with evidence of their own guilt and volunteers to take the witness stand in their own defense, despite being advised against it, and offers profoundly sketchy alibis, they are in fact asking people to accept their explanations. This is what I said, and no amount of deliberate ignorance on your part will change what I said.
posted by verb at 6:38 AM on April 29, 2008


BrotherCaine, I think the key phrase there is "chained," not "Occam's Razor." It seems to me that you're looking at a bunch of independent probabilities -- but it's also sort of like a Bayesian text filter: once you get enough corroborating evidence, the probability of data that doesn't fulfill all the prior conditions drops to practically nil. I'd say that's reasonable doubt.

Sure, everything Hans did has at least some possible innocent explanation, particularly because he's an eccentric guy, but there's also a point at which the conditional probabilities start to catch up -- e.g., the chance of buying two books on homicide, ok on its own. But buying two books on homicide around the time your wife disappears, taking a long trip out of town after you were the last one to see her (when you argued) though you never looked for her, caught hosing out the inside of your car where you'd been sleeping in a sleeping bag with her blood on it, making anti-surveillance moves from the police, getting arrested with $9000 in your pocket and your passport, etc., etc. -- that's different. Again, each surely has an innocent explanation on its own, but it's not the individual facts nor even their quantity that's so damning -- its their consistency.

While per-item explanations are sufficient for reasonable doubt, they don't explain the aggregate picture at all. The fact that murder is consistent with nearly everything Reiser did after Nina disappeared means that as a conditional probability it's by far the most likely explanation. (Whether 1st or 2nd degree is a different issue.) I think it probably meets the "reasonable doubt" bar myself, but that's a jury issue -- the key point is that the circumstantial evidence here (it should really be called indirect evidence) is pretty compelling. At some point, the string of coincidences is such that no matter how high you set the bar for "reasonable doubt", the chance of all those coincidences happening for some reason other than the murder is just so small that it would no longer be reasonable to doubt on that basis.

Another thing that's not being mentioned here is just how risky this strategy is for the prosecution. It's not as if they went after this guy on sheer innuendo; presenting the case with this evidence is compelling, but only because the puzzle pieces all fit. The downside to the prosecution's strategy was the risk that if Reiser really could come up with an innocent, corroborated explanation for even some of this, it would blow the DA's case out of the water. All he had to do was really punk Hora one or two times -- say, by showing that he did search for Nina, or that he was actually worried afterward, or come up with any kind of alibi for the time right after Nina disappeared. Or, better yet, not act before and during trial like a guilty man -- not call his mother telling her Nina got what she deserved, not put out anti-Semitic press releases claiming Nina's hiding in Russia with her KGB contacts, not harassing the judge and counsel, not doing anti-surveillance driving to mess with the police, not carrying around his passport and $9000 in cash, not hosing out his car floorboards and throwing out the seat, not buying books on murder...

The strength of a case that's built on a glaringly consistent thread running through all the indirect evidence is that it lets you build a strong logical case without direct evidence; the weakness of such a case is that, because it's so intertwined, a few good shots to just a couple parts of the overall structure, and the whole thing comes crashing down. The case worked here in this trial because the defendant simply didn't have any kind of alternative explanation nor any evidence that was inconsistent with the murder explanation. So the strategy's not "unfair" -- the point is that the defendant has just as potent a counterattack against this strategy, in addition to all the rhetorical soapbox they automatically get to wax eloquent about "innocent until proven guilty," "can't convict on a litany of innuendoes," etc.

Really, Reiser set the tone here, and if he's actually not guilty I find it sort of difficult to feel sympathy for him over the result of the trial. If you know you're under investigation for murder, this could be used as a "Best Of" list of Things That Make You Look Guilty. And you certainly don't rely on the "platypus / geek" defense.
posted by spiderwire at 7:13 AM on April 29, 2008 [7 favorites]


Indeed, when I used the term 'preponderance of evidence', it was this that I was referring to, rather than some legal technical standard whose meaning I'm still somewhat unclear about.

"More likely than not." That's all there is to it.
posted by spiderwire at 7:18 AM on April 29, 2008




BTW, Henry Lee's liveblog coverage of the trial has been really amazing (also linked in the original post) -- if you have some time on your hands, it's worth reading, even if you're not a lawyer/future lawyer (Hora's closing is pretty awesome).

It was a crazy case -- and before anyone complains about Reiser getting convicted based on circumstantial evidence, I recommend that you check out just how overwhelming that mountain of circumstantial evidence actually was, and how astonishingly little the defense was able to muster up cutting the other way.
posted by spiderwire at 7:29 AM on April 29, 2008


I like the defense theory of comparing Hans Reiser to a platypus. They're both peculiar mammals that live in seclusion and will stab you if provoked.

Hans Reiser : platypus :: OJ Simpson : ____________
posted by optovox at 7:39 AM on April 29, 2008


Spiderwire: You nailed my thoughts on it. Each of the little bits are deniable, but each additional little bit creates a strong case.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:22 AM on April 29, 2008


The San Francisco Chronicle has been covering this case for weeks now, an article almost every day summarizing the testimony. All through the trial, from well before Reiser took the stand, it was apparent that he was an unpleasant and difficult person. Of course those of us in the Linux community have known that for much longer.

Being a jerk is not grounds for a murder conviction, but it was clearly a huge mistake to have him defending himself on the stand. I wonder if that was his own choice overriding the rule of his counsel? Just the kind of arrogant mistake stereotypical of a tone-deaf computer nerd, but I have no idea if that's how it really happened.

I hope his kids end up OK.
posted by Nelson at 8:26 AM on April 29, 2008


Hans Reiser : platypus :: OJ Simpson : Chewbacca
posted by Nelson at 8:26 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


"spiderwire: unless there's some sort of procedural issue that i missed while reading all the trial coverage ... that could form the basis of the appeal, reiser's done."

No. You get one appeal as of right.

"because the use of circumstantial evidence is appropriate -- despite the mistaken impression some in this thread seem to be under about this"

No. Nobody said it was inappropriate. What we're saying is that there seems to be weak circumstantial evidence if there is no body. A body is still circumstantial evidence. Again, I'd like to see the transcript.

"there is simply no way that a court is going to reverse a jury decision on the argument that 'no reasonable person could have come to that conclusion as a matter of law,'"

That's the wrong standard. The standard you're thinking of is whether a reasonable jury could have come to that conclusion, and that standard is met all the time. Juries are given instructions and must have sufficient evidentiary basis for their findings. The judgment of juries is limited by law, whereas the judgment of people is not. The denial of the legal right of Reiser to have the correct standard of proof against him, if that's actually the case, is reversible error.
posted by jock@law at 8:42 AM on April 29, 2008


convict without a body and certainty of the lady's demise?
shit, every self-respecting killer out there must be crying foul after this mockery of their craft.
posted by krautland at 8:43 AM on April 29, 2008


verb, you weren't the quoted poster, and innocent until proven guilty wasn't the topic of discussion.

"Of course it's possible that a woman might have bloody sex with her husband on a sleeping bag, which is never washed, and then disappear completely without leaving a trace or even a message to her kids, just after visiting her estranged husband (who just happens to tear a seat out of his car and soak the car down with water, because he thinks that car floors have drains, just after she just happens to go missing). Did that happen? The jury reasonably doubts it." -posted by Bookhouse at 8:50 PM on April 28 [+] [!]

The jury has to do more than reasonably doubt the truth of the defense statement. It has to believe it so strongly that there can be no reasonable doubt that it's false.

If there's room for reasonable disagreement, based solely on the proofs offered in evidence, then the jury must acquit.
posted by jock@law at 8:50 AM on April 29, 2008


verb, you weren't the quoted poster, and innocent until proven guilty wasn't the topic of discussion.
Apologies, I crossed your reply with an earlier comment directed to me. Carry on.
posted by verb at 8:55 AM on April 29, 2008


wierdo writes "I guess spending many years with the bottom quarter of society brought me to know a lot of very weird people for whom these strange occurences are fairly normal. Yes, even washing out their car with a garden hose. Of course, I lived in Arkansas, and in their case, there were holes in the floorboard. The dumbass did end up growing a serious mildew infestation until he did it again, only this time with one of those liquid fertilizer sprayers and bleach water."

Is washing the interior of a car out with a hoise really that unusual? I do the interior of my truck all the time at the U-Do car wash. Mind you at 30C and 10%RH it dries out fast but still this doesn't seem all that weird to me.
posted by Mitheral at 9:15 AM on April 29, 2008


Well, that's part of the problem. I don't see that the doubt is reasonable given the multiple converging lines of evidence. My doubt is just whether we are talking about manslaughter or murder.

I don't think it's reasonable to doubt the theory that Nina's disappearance was unplanned, involuntary and spontaneous. There is just too much collaborating evidence that she was fighting for custody through legal means, planned to return home, and left behind important resources.

I don't think it's reasonable to doubt that the divorce was bitter and possibly violent, given evidence stipulated by both sides.

I don't think it's reasonable to doubt that Reiser was engaged in a systematic effort to destroy evidence and mislead police. The alternative theory involves too much batshit crazy happening in a timeframe consistent with guilt.

And the blood evidence would be really damning if the prosecution can show that it involved a non-trivial quantity of blood that would require medical attention.

Of course, otherwise reasonable people often have unreasonable beliefs: anti-evolution, cruise missiles hitting the Pentagon, alien abduction and moon landings faked on a soundstage are examples.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:20 AM on April 29, 2008


Is washing the interior of a car out with a hoise really that unusual? I do the interior of my truck all the time at the U-Do car wash. Mind you at 30C and 10%RH it dries out fast but still this doesn't seem all that weird to me.
It's a little odd but understandable in isolation, just like all of the other elements of the case. That's the real issue -- Reiser's defense hinged on treating the mountain of circumstantial evidence as individual issues to be dissected one by one. Think of it as a statistics problem -- the chance of any coin flip coming up heads is 50%, but the chance of a specific sequence (say, heads-heads-heads-heads-heads-heads-heads-heads-heads) is much lower. The evidence that indicated Reiser's guilt was a specific sequence and the defense, as best as I can tell from the extensive daily summaries that were posted, refused to acknowledge that.
posted by verb at 9:29 AM on April 29, 2008


jock@law: "The jury has to do more than reasonably doubt the truth of the defense statement. "

I'm pretty sure Bookhouse was just trying to make some clever turn-of-phrase about how the jury didn't believe Reiser's story

Additionally, you could probably stand to stop trying to turn everything people are saying into a statement about the law and interpreting it literally. For instance that "preponderance of evidence" statement from earlier in the thread. This isn't a legal message board, everyone doesn't know absolutely every legal term, and will occasionally accidentally use/misuse those terms. And while your comments, while they certainly show how smart you are at legal issues, also make you look like a bit of a literalist prat.

I read a write-up about Reiser in Wired a while ago, and he certainly seems like an... odd guy. I guess his decision to take the stand really screwed him over, while the prosecution ran a pretty tight ship.
posted by grandsham at 9:36 AM on April 29, 2008


jock@law:

You get one appeal as of right.

Never said you didn't. By "Reiser's done," I meant "done" as in "his goose is cooked." I.e., you don't get a colorable argument as of right.

As to what I actually said: a procedural error (i.e., something that the trial judge got wrong) gets reviewed de novo as a matter of law (the most relaxed standard you could get), whereas the standard for matters of fact is usually much tougher (rational-basis; clearly erroneous). I assume you're aware of that.

Even if the conviction is based on circumstantial evidence, it's nevertheless a finding of fact and it's not going to get overturned on appeal. Juries are allowed to draw reasonable inferences from circumstantial/indirect evidence; whether or not those inferences are reasonable is a completely different issue for review than whether the prosecution met their burden of proof, and both are distinct from whether the jury received correct instructions on the meaning of "reasonable doubt."

To be clear, there's simply no way that the jury is going to get reversed on the inferences they made from the circumstantial evidence here, so I'm confused as to why we're actually discussing that, since you appear to have at least some familiarity here. Now, you might be saying that they could be reversed in their aggregate conclusion (a different issue), which might be possible but only insofar as there might be no way to properly infer, e.g., a required mental state based on the evidence. That said, the chance of reversal there is also low, and in any event the result would probably be just a reduction from first-degree to second-degree or manslaughter.

But what you seem to be suggesting is that there was some sort of error in the description of "reasonable doubt" offered to the jury, which doesn't make much sense to me given your admission that you haven't actually read the transcripts. Even though lay commenters in this thread aren't phrasing the standard how you'd like, I assure you that the jurors in the actual case were almost certainly instructed on itvia some boilerplate language that's been used thousands of times in the California courts, and that it'll be a cold day in hell before any appellate court reverses the trial court on that basis. Based on this comment, you seem to be under the mistaken impression that there really is a settled definition of "beyond a reasonable doubt," so here's a hint: there isn't. If you've found the magical authority on that question, I'd love to see it.

Maybe you should be a little clearer about the basis for reversal you're positing here.

That's the wrong standard. The standard you're thinking of is whether a reasonable jury could have come to that conclusion, and that standard is met all the time.

I'm aware of the standard; I was trying to give a lay explanation of "reasonableness."

As a matter of fact, though, you have the standard wrong, mostly because there is no such rule -- the standard for sufficiency of evidence differs depending on the jurisdiction (and I'm not familiar with California's standard in this case), but the usual standard is whether a rational trier of fact could have drawn the conclusion in question. The standard is "clearly erroneous" in some jurisdictions.

Regardless, I've never heard of a "reasonable jury" standard, so it seems to me that an explanation of reasonableness is probably more appropriate, though in reality the standard for sufficiency-of-the-evidence is probably closer to rational-basis in most cases.

Juries are given instructions and must have sufficient evidentiary basis for their findings. The judgment of juries is limited by law, whereas the judgment of people is not. The denial of the legal right of Reiser to have the correct standard of proof against him, if that's actually the case, is reversible error.

Dude, what the hell are you talking about? No one's making the argument that the jury was given an incorrect evidentiary standard. That would be reversible error -- because it's a matter of law -- but that has nothing to do with the sufficiency of the evidence. The use of indirect vs. direct evidence is totally anterior to the question of the correct standard of proof (both on the level of individual inferences and overall conclusions), and to the issue of incorrect jury instructions -- you're conflating at least four distinct questions of law here and borking every one of them.
posted by spiderwire at 10:26 AM on April 29, 2008


All that said, if I had to posit one potential route out for Reiser, it would probably be that, according to this article, the jury put a lot of weight on a phone call Reiser made to this mother (rightfully, in my view -- it's pretty damning) which, if I recall correctly, Reiser's attorney objected to during the DA's closing.

I would imagine that if the judge's decision to admit that phone call into evidence was error (I don't remember the basis of the original objection -- I think someone implied that it was an inappropriate wiretap?) then the fact that the jury apparently considered it dispositive in establishing some of the elements of first-degree would probably mean reversal.

However, since the jury didn't even consider acquittal, I still don't see any outcome that doesn't end up with at least involuntary manslaughter; the jury doesn't need to infer a whole lot to get there. Like I said, it's pretty much done. Hope things work out for the kids.
posted by spiderwire at 10:51 AM on April 29, 2008


I'm pretty sure Bookhouse was just trying to make some clever turn-of-phrase

There is no try!
posted by Bookhouse at 11:00 AM on April 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


Put 12 random people in a room and, believe me, there will be one or two who have reasonable doubt that the sun will rise tomorrow.

It may sound trite, but every jury verdict is something of an accomplishment and should not be second guessed by people who have not sat through the same proceedings, under the same pressures, given the same instructions.

Said as someone who has sat on a jury. Bleh.
posted by mazola at 11:24 AM on April 29, 2008


Me: makes note to hire spiderwire rather than jock@law to handle my defence when I next kill my wife.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:02 PM on April 29, 2008


As I understand the events in court, Reiser would've been convicted of voluntary manslaughter at worst if he hadn't insisted on taking the stand himself. His lawyers advised against it in the strongest possible terms because they obviously knew that he'd get up there and go straight into the "I'm a genius and you're all idiots" routine that he's famous for but ultimately, they had no choice but to stand and watch while he gathered the wood, built the gallows, slipped the rope around his neck and stepped off the chair. He was convicted based on his personality, not the evidence. And regardless of whether he's actually guilty or not if he'd just been able to shut the fuck up he wouldn't been looking at the thick end of 25 to life right now.
posted by NeonSurge at 2:02 PM on April 29, 2008


Spiderwire, my last comment was not to explain any kind of belief in Reiser's innocence or case defense. I was trying to point out why eyewitness testimony despite its inaccuracy, could be more helpful to the prosecutions case than circumstantial. An eyewitness can bring the disparate elements of perpetrator, victim, location and time together as a part of the body of evidence rather than just the prosecutors narrative. At that point the jury gets to judge the reliability of one piece of narrative rather than the probability of the whole narrative vs. the competing narrative(s) of the defense.

For what it's worth, I think what really nailed Reiser were the standing water in his car and the book(s) on forensics along with his poor explanation.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:53 PM on April 29, 2008


*reliability of one piece of evidence*
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:54 PM on April 29, 2008


BrotherCaine: Got it. That's actually a very good point.
posted by spiderwire at 5:34 PM on April 29, 2008


I've been following this case from the beginning, and I have to admit, it's been frustrating and exhausting. And honestly, I was disappointed by the outcome. It really left me wishing for one of those Not Proven verdicts, like w0mbat mentioned earlier.

One thing that got play in a very early Wired magazine article about the case (one that I feel certain was linked here when it came out, and which was sprinkled with excerpts from the reiserfs source code in what some found to be a kind of cheesy conceit) was that Hans was not just angry at Nina, he was rather scared of her connections. He and his father sounded deeply paranoid about their suspicions that she had connections to KGB/FSB officials back in the motherland, potentially with enforcers stateside. Thus when he was being followed by unmarked police and taking evasive maneuvers on the highway, it wasn't to fuck with the police who were investigating him, but because he was scared he was being followed by the same people who killed Nina and that they wanted to kill him too. (Same thing with why he was afraid of his cell phone being tracked.)

But I digress. I definitely find it hard to believe the story that Nina took off for Russia, but far less because of the 45+ witnesses who were called expressly to talk about what a great mother she was and to speculate about whether or not she'd abandon her kids (when her kids ended up in Russia, which is where the defense hypothesized she fled to, rendering the whole argument kind of silly) than because of all of the effects (groceries, cash, passport) left in place as though she had been beamed vertically up off of the planet in an instant.

So, Nina vanished, likely was killed. And the investigation quickly focused on Hans, with minimal attention paid to either of the men Nina had been dating, both of whom admittedly had copies of her keys. Or any of the anonymous men she'd been contacting from S&M-themed adult personals on Craigslist.

My concerns had already started to surface. Anyway, I waited to hear the prosecution's narrative, which turned out to be: Judo master strangles woman to death, however somehow in the process of strangling manages to also cause her blood to spray in twoone discrete locations. Places body in front seat of small hatchback, rather than cargo compartment, (???), murder accomplished!

I don't know whether Hans did it or not. I honestly don't think his defense sounded as ridiculous as a lot of people in here seem to believe (for instance, cars that you can clean with a hose aren't uncommon. My coworker's Element proudly boasts this feature, as apparently did one of Hans's previous cars). That being said, I believe he could and very well may have done it. And I really expected the jury to return a guilty verdict.

But I was expecting them to be reasonable. And then, in spite of the overwhelmingly shared informed observer's opinion that he'd be guilty of manslaughter or 2nd degree murder, tops, since the prosecution had shown absolutely no evidence of premeditation, the jury concludes beyond a reasonable doubt that not only do all of the reasonable doubts mentioned above not exist, but that there also is not a single doubt that he planned this murder in advance.

All right, so I disagree with them, but assume good faith, right? Well, I did, until I started reading some of the followup coverage. Here, one juror states the evidence that led him to find Reiser guilty: "I was looking at his eyes... He was faking it." As for evidence of premeditation: "The fact that he was able to get rid of the body," which has not been shown to exist. There is the burden of proof, I suppose -- a missing woman not only is dead, but one man in particular killed her, and that killing was premeditated, because of the look in this (socially retarded) man's eyes.

spiderwire mentioned this article which talks about how unfavorably the jury viewed a phone call between Reiser and his mother in which he was "making her a bad person" and calling her "a thief." Guy is in the PROCESS OF DIVORCE, his wife has been cheating on and allegedly embezzling from him, and she is in the process of trying to take legal possession of their children and many of his assets. I'm not sure confessing to his mom that he thinks she's a bad person is really damning enough in this situation.

Hans may have done it, he may not have. I'm not one to claim to know one way or the other, or to malign people on either side of the argument. But this was a long, ugly trial, and I had a knot in the pit of my stomach upon hearing the verdict because I feel like process, impressions, and bombastic speech may have trumped evidence and the concept of a "reasonable doubt," and I have no reason to think a prosecutor couldn't do the same to me or someone I care about someday.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 6:46 PM on April 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


Her cell phone was found in her car with the battery removed. When he was arrested his cell phone didn't have the battery in it. He perjured himself during the trial about removing the battery from his phone.

Hans called Nina 26 times during August 2006, and once after she disappeared.

It was the sleeping bag sack, not the sleeping bag.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:09 PM on April 29, 2008


optovox wrote: Clearly, it was.

Clearly, you've never served on a jury.
posted by wierdo at 1:51 PM on April 30, 2008


Bookhouse wrote: If I were a prosecutor, I wouldn't want you on a jury because you apparently think that the prosecution is the only side of a trial that lies.

No, I believe that the prosecution is the party in the trial who shouldn't be lying. Obviously the person on trial will often be lying if they are guilty, and even if they're not and have something else to hide. Although these days most charges are never taken to trial, whether or not the person is guilty, thanks to the incredibly stiff penalties given to those who do insist on a trial and relatively light sentences involved in most plea arrangements.

Sadly, while our criminal justice system has gotten far better in some ways, it has been significantly deteriorating at the same time.
posted by wierdo at 1:59 PM on April 30, 2008


posted by wierdo Clearly, you've never served on a jury.

Wrong again.
posted by optovox at 10:07 AM on May 1, 2008


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