THE REISER MURDER TRIAL ON THURSDAY 12-6
THE DEFENSE INFLICTS ITS FIRST SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE
As the session ended on Wednesday, the jury listened to about 30 minutes of messages in Nina’s cell. Her last messages included calls from Boyfriend Zografos but nothing from Hans. There was nothing further to clarify or refine the timeline because, as we all know, even living people can take a day or so to get around to answering their messages.
THURSDAY started predictably enough. We learned, for example, that after Nina was missing, the boyfriend Zografos passed out 5,000 fliers and arranged for 18 billboards Reiser evidently didn’t help. Given the acrimony between the two, that isn’t surprising.
The Bill DuBois conducted a very effective cross examination. IT began with–
THE SET UP
DuBois: “You and Nina had a relationship of absolute trust, you would say?”
Boyfriend: “I would say that.”
DuBois: “You trusted Nina, right?”
Boyfriend: “I did.”
DuBois: “You think she was looking for other men when she was dating you?”
Boyfriend: “I know she wasn’t.”
DuBois: “You say that with some authority.”
Boyfriend: “I knew Nina well.”
First, DuBois pressed about Zografos last message – “Everything can be fixed.” The defense asked a line of questions suggesting that the couple was having trouble and that Nina was in financial distress. Zografos denied this.
Then he began a line of questions about Zografos knowing that Nina had borrowed money from her ex lover, Sean Sturgeon. Evidently he did know. Dubois asked whether she had asked Sean for money even after she was no longer seeing the guy. Zografos knew that, too.
Then a series of questions designed to elicit damaging character material about Sturgeon were cut off, including an attempt to get in the notion that Sean was a “sex worker”. DuBois is pressing against a wall here. We can infer that this sort of derogatory information about the ex boyfriend has been ruled out of bounds. This is dangerous territory for the DA because when a jury thinks valuable, potential exculpatory information is being kept away from them, they are inclined to punish the prosecution. DuBois has elicited just enough for the jury to begin to wonder.
Earlier I speculated that Sturgeon must have an iron clad alibi or have been ruled out a suspect for equally sound reasons. If this is not the case, then we can expect the defense to go even further with this line.
Finally DuBois scored with a series of questions about Nina using Craigslist for dating even when she was with Zografos. It was all just play, the witness said, telling the jury that he knew about it.
But the seed of doubt has been sown. Several jurors are now asking themselves questions. “Is it possible that some creep who found her on Craigslist began stalking her?” [Note – there is no evidence I’ve yet heard that Nina listed herself on the internet. This is a small hole the DA needs to plug.] “Didn’t we hear about child molesters exploiting that service?” “Is it possible that there was some trouble with the ex boyfriend?”
I am still persuaded that this jury will not believe that Nina abandoned her kids and framed Hans. But they just might be persuaded that she was attacked by someone other than Hans, now that the theory begins to take more plausible shape In order to prevail, the DA will need to firmly knock down each of these ghost assailant theories.
In a case this closely balanced it won’t take might to turn several jurors into the reasonable doubt column.
But all this talk is premature. All too often has a defense attorney seemed to make great headway in cross examination, only to have the defense case melt away when additional evidence piles on. And there is no reasonable doubt defense case so sturdy that a single defendant on the witness can’t help the prosecution deliver a conviction.
Keep THE KEY things in mind: The timeline, the specific locations of all the identified blood, the gaping hole problem, and the pattern of Hans’ behavior. In the end, little else will matter.
And stay tuned…