NOW I ASK YOU: IS THIS THE FACE OF A KILLER?
As of yesterday’s testimony, the jury is getting the picture of an authoritarian Hans Reiser, a control freak who interferes with his son’s medical care who us also a martial arts expert capable of killing someone with brutal, quiet efficiency.
This is every woman’s nightmare ex-husband.
And, while in custody in February, Hans is described by a fellow inmate as being riveted at a local television story of a body being discovered in the Oakland hills, then visibly relieved when it turned out to be that of a black male.
The defense must rely on the circumstantial evidence rule that will be read to the jury and referenced during argument. When a proved circumstance (as in the defendant’s reaction to the television story of the body) is susceptible of two reasonable constructions, one pointing to guilt and the other to the absence of guilt, the jury is mandated to select the innocent interpretation, provided that it is reasonable. People tend to think of the law – especially the criminal law – as a body of clear and bright line rules. But the term “reasonable” infuses a loose variable. One juror’s reasonable doubt is another’s conviction.
Mr. Reiser’s problem is with cumulative nuance: A picture of this defendant’s nature – creepy, controlling and menacing – is seeping into the case like some dark Stephen King fog. That fog will set the tone and the context for what a juror will take to be “reasonable”.
So, in the end, all will turn on how the jury finally assesses Hans Reiser, the person.
Jurors will withhold their final assessment until Reiser testifies. I’m reminded of a Gary Larson cartoon once posted on my office wall. It was a courtroom scene. All of the players were cats, the jurors, the judge, the prosecutor and the defense counsel, except for the defendant. The defense counsel was arguing, “Now I ask you, Is that the face of a cat killer?” And there he was in the dock, a large Gary Larson cartoon dog, tongue lolling as he did his very best to look innocent….