THE REISER CASE NEARS THE END
WHY WE ARE STILL WAITING FOR THE BREAKTHROUGH
The Han Reiser murder trial resumes in about four hours.
The DA has rested without a blockbuster, case clinching piece of evidence. The only remaining possibility for a “breakthrough” event would be Hans’ own testimony. But that may not happen….
At the beginning of the Hans Reiser trial, I offered the opinion that Hans should testify – in spite of all the attendant risks. This was based on a couple of assumptions – that the circumstantial evidence against his would be inconclusive and that he was innocent, or at least had a clear path open to him in which a defendant-as witness might persuade a jury to acquit.
If you’ve been following my comments over the last weeks, you know that I’ve changed my mind. The seeds of this change of mind were planted early when I noticed the tension between the defendant and the defense team, Reiser’s obsession with the child custody issues and the early commitment by the defense to an untenable theory of defense, to wit, that it was all some shadowy KGB conspiracy. This was the picture of a defense team trapped by a nutter defendant whose paranoid picture of the case against him contained the seeds of defeat. It might have seemed irresistibly appealing to Bill DuBois to play with the notion that Nina was still alive somewhere, but that required us to actually believe that she would suddenly abandon everything, kids included, for some new, under-funded and perpetually covert life elsewhere. In one of those rational intervals that tends to infect the defense mind, surely, I thought, the defense team was rethinking whether is was such a good idea, after all, to expose Han Reiser to the rigors of cross examination by the prosecution.
In this connection I want to comment, in passing, about all the net-chatter concerning that “greedy, manipulative Russian bi…” stereotype. Whatever the folklore about the behavior of “Russian mail order brides” generally, I would remind this subset of web trial groupies of two things: (1) This is not about your stereotype generally but about a well educated young physician from a middle class background; (2) The key issue is not whether Nina would give Hans a hard time during the marriage, but whether she would voluntarily abandon her US life and children in one dramatic gesture, leaving behind money, passports, driver’s license, anew job and rotting groceries in an abandoned car.
Yes, the evidence against Hans is still inconclusive, but the better defense – still unexploited by Mr. Dubois and possibly now unavailable due to earlier miscalculations – is that someone else caused Nina’s involuntary disappearance.
Consider the problems presented for the defense by calling Hans as a witness. Every murder case involves eliminating a witness: After all in a mere assault – all too common in a domestic dispute of this type – the wife lives to testify against hubby. It is unwise, in the extreme, for an innocent suspect in any murder case to attempt to flee, to destroy or hide evidence. This is why, in celebrity cases, the lawyers always announce on behalf of the suspect client, that ‘these charges are baseless and my client is fully cooperating with the investigation,’ or words to that general effect.
So Mr. Reiser is in a trap of his own making. We’ll soon find out what he has decided to do about it.