MOMENT OF TRUTH PART TWO: THE FIRST LIE?
The doubled edged nature of Han Reiser’s testimony was blatantly apparent, so much so that at times the defense direct examination by Bill DuBois was hard to distinguish from a cross examination by a prosecutor. To be fair, any competent defense attorney needs to take the sting out of a client’s admissions and concessions by presenting them first and in the best light. But the overall effect illustrates downsides associated with calling this defendant to the witness stand at all, given the sheer number of damaging behaviors and circumstances that need to be persuasively explained.
THE DEFENSE HIGHLIGHTS
Hans bought the police procedurals after seeing his attorney – but not on his attorney’s recommendation. Hans was worried about police interrogation techniques.
Hans thinks his own DNA may have been deposited onto the Exeter post by reaching out and touching it. Others might have gotten their DNA on it via spittle. And Nina? Hans was allowed to speculate: One time in 06 Nina cut her finger on a cutting board (presumably in the kitchen) and another time she had a nosebleed (presumably not from striking the post).
Hans’ assertions here may or may not be helped or refuted by DNA evidence, but the fact that he has implicitly acknowledged the DNA identification tells me that the defense DNA expert may have little to add to the case, if that expert testifies at all…
Hans slept in the CRX for a few days to avoid being arrested after Nina’s disappearance.
Hans admitted that he evaded the police because he didn’t want them to seize his CRX. He contemplated throwing away the police procedural books he kept there. He parked the CRX on Monterey Boulevard to hide it from the police and “ran like the wind” to get away from the car. [Remember this is the defense examination.]
Hans admitted that he had not been honest earlier when he concealed the fact that he had a practice of removing the battery from his cellphone when he was not using it.
The Storage Unit
Hans admitted that he had explored using the Manteca storage facility to hide the CRX, but decided against it because there were guards 24/7. Hans explained that he wanted to be able to sleep there.
Hans admitted that he threw the passenger seat from the CRX into a dumpster by Tom’s Hardware and Auto in San Leandro. He first said that the location was on Hegenberger, then – after a juror shook his head – Hans corrected himself. The street was Hesperian. This disposal took place on Sept. 17, 2006. Why did he dispose of it? “That seat was not in good condition. Neither seat was in good condition.”
Hans contradicted himself – again on direct examination – about what he was doing in Redwood City on September 12 when he was ticketed. At first it was business then it was to get a sandwich.
THE CROSS EXAMINATION
Paul Hora began by taking charge immediately.
Hans Lied to the Jury Earlier
Hora: Let me begin by asking if you’re willing to admit, here and now, that when you testified you willfully concealed the fact that you routinely removed the battery from your cell phone after Nina disappeared?
Reiser: Yes, and I feel badly about that.
Hora: And that was a willfully false or deliberating misleading statement of a material fact, do you agree?
The court will later instruct the jury that a witness who testifies falsely about a material fact in one part of his testimony can be distrusted in all his testimony. Note here, that Paul Hora’s question has carefully narrowed the time frame to “after Nina disappeared”. This is what makes the omission particularly material.
What Was Hans hiding?
Reiser began to fence with Hora during questions about why he was evading police in the CRX even though he apparently knew that there was a search warrant.
Reiser: But I didn’t have an awareness that it was my legal responsibility to provide a car upon obtaining the knowledge that there exists, somewhere, such a lawful search warrant, and I don’t think that I have that legal obligation — but I’m sure Mr. DuBois can direct me…. You’re kind of asking me for a legal conclusion, sir, as to whether I should have provided the police with my car. I guess you’re implicitly asking me for a legal conclusion — you didn’t explicitly. I don’t have a grreat deal of desire to give the government all of my possessions — not my underwear, not my car, definitely not my children.
Hora: And not information about where Nina is?
Reiser: Your question is ridiculous.
What Happened on September 3?
Then Hora took Reiser thorough a whole series of questions about the events on September 3. Reiser agreed that he and Nina discussed the divorce, but denied that voices were raised or that “passions were aroused”.
Hans denied striking Nina, pushing Nina; he denied accidentally or intentionally killing her; he denied that she committed suicide, denied that she tripped and fell, and so on. It was an amazing string of questions – in effect Hora was using the defendant too rule out any mitigation or defense to a killing, bringing the case down to an all or nothing choice.
One interesting question and answer:
Hora: Did you assault her?
Hora: Did you touch her?
Reiser: ….Probably not. [My emphasis. Reportedly Hans paused before answering that question.]
And at another point:
Hora: Did Nina hit you?
Reiser: She did not.
Hora: Did she apply any physical force to you at all?
Reiser: She did not.
Hora: Did she touch you?
Reiser: I believe she did not touch me. [Again my emphasis.]
Once again, some astute jurors may be paying attention to how Reiser chooses to express himself. “I probably didn’t touch her.” [And from his earlier explanation about why Hans didn’t jettison the police procedural books, “I figured if I was innocent, it wouldn’t really matter.”] These could be examples of careless syntax by an innocent genius or instances of unconscious slips by a very bright, but very guilty man under a lot of stress.
Hans as Physically Dangerous
As the day closed out, Reiser admitted that he is much heavier than Nina, that he had been taking judo lessons and practice for 19 years; that he studied for a time under a Russian judo champion, and that he, Reiser, has a black belt.
Then the topic turned to the nature and value of Hans’ company. More on that thread tomorrow…
In the meantime, you can be assured that the DA’s inspectors will be checking out a certain San Leandro auto and hardware store.
It may be a bit too early to identify the tipping point in this case, but Hans’ earlier pattern of deception and evasion may have just entered the courtroom. Much more of this pattern and there will be a shift in favor of the DA…