Wednesday, March 5 in P vs. Reiser


By all accounts, today’s session with Hans Reiser still on the stand, still on direct examination, still led by his attorney, Bill DuBois — was a crushing bore.

I suppose that the defense strategy might be to so inundate the jurors with the mountainous minutia of Hans’ troubled – and in contrast with, say, Bill Gates – tragically diminished life, that the jury will be stirred by pity to give the poor lad the benefit of all doubts and … acquit him because, after all, he was treated so badly by Nina…

For me this resonates in an eerie way with the mitigation phase in a death penalty case, where the thrust of the defense evidence is designed to evoke the “OK he is a murderer, but we feel so sorry for the poor SOB that we will spare his life” response.

But that’s not the game: This jury is being asked by the defense to walk the defendant out the door.

Here is a lens you can use to more closely examine the defendant’s testimony: Think (for this exercise) like a prosecutor – What is damaging? What can Paul Hora use in final argument?

So here’s the scorecard:

Day One – Yesterday

Hans tended to ramble in his answers, but the jury learned that just before Nina left the building on Sept. 3, 2006, she and Hans talked about divorce issues.

Nina – this is according only to Hans here – was going to marry boyfriend Anthony Zografos.
Hans told Nina that he was no longer going to pay her child support ($1,000 a month). Nina did not agree. 
Nina would have to repay Hans for alimony payments he had made.  Nina – we can infer – did not agree. 
Hans would have legal custody of the kids.  Nina did not agree.  The couple also argued about the boy’s dental care.

According to Hans, Nina agreed that Hans could have his company. We can reasonably infer that Nina would never have made this concession.

After this one hour long “discussion” (we can infer that it was a bitter argument), Nina refused to keep talking with Hans. Breaking off a discussion like that is known to infuriate males.

Nina then called the children to upstairs for bye-byes. [The front door to the Exeter house is at street level.]

Little R…. hugged Mom. Then – in Hans’ courtroom account – Nina goes out the door.

Here is Hans’ description of what happens next: “The minivan starts up and drives away.” Note the passive voice here. It would work equally well if someone else, say Hans himself, drove the car… Was this a grammatical accident or a revelatory slip?

Hans said he never saw her again. Some jurors might add – he never saw her again … alive.

Clearly this was the description of an ongoing domestic fight. From the prosecution’s POV, one only need add a single provocative element, like a taunt or threat, something one could easily imagine pushing Hans’ button or jerking his chain — something like — “I can close down your company!”.

This sort of thing can easily provoke a sudden violent response.

In this hypothetical scenario, it need not have been a killing blow (recall, however Hans’ martial arts training), but an injurious one might have initiated a tragic cascade of events — “Oh sh..! If I call 911, I’m really screwed” — leading to Nina’s death and a hastily improvised cover-up.

Every murder involves the elimination of at least one witness.

Day Two- Today

This is Hans, describing how the marriage began to unravel over money issues:

“Well, there are things in retrospect now, like we’re running really low on money and yet, her credit-card records show that she spent $20,000 on clothing in 2003. Um, at the time I had cut somebody’s salary from $5 an hour to $3.75 an hour, she spent over $1,000 on jewelry purchases at the House of Jewelry, in credit-card debts. And this seemed kind of nasty.”

On May 15th 2004, Nina locked Hans out of the house.

This is the picture of a potentially ruined man, one with a huge set of grievances.

So Hans moves in with Mom and pays rent for the use of the CRX. When DuBois showed Hans the video of an investigator demonstrating how someone could use the CRX, with seat removed, to lie down in, Hans was also shown pictures of the sleeping bag and carry bag – the same bag having Nina’s DNA. Hans wanted to change the subject.

As to the bitterness of the divorce, Hans said: “We’re not very physical people. You can be vitriolic in words without coming to blows.” The jury will later be asked to recall that Hans was, for a time, subject to a restraining order after having “shoved” Nina.

Perhaps the most interesting exchange of the day was stricken from the record. The ever persistent Bill DuBois is still trying to get derogatory (and menacing) information about Nina’s ex-boyfriend, Sean Sturgeon, before the jury. This was about Sturgeon’s possible complicity in taking money from Hans’ company.

DuBois: “Do you have any idea of the total amount of money she may have taken for her own use while she was managing your Namesys revenue?”

Hans: “Based upon Sean’s note, which we obtained at the settlement, I think a lower bound on the amount is $150,000, because Sean claims to have loaned her $150,000 starting in May 2004 to the time he wrote that note.”


If an estranged husband thinks his wife has not only been engaged in an affair with a business associate, but has also taken money from his company (again there is no evidence before the jury of actual embezzlement), and that she is being patently unreasonable about alimony and child support, and that she is keeping him from his children and stands to ruin his business…. Men have killed for less.

Every element of proof about how Nina “did Hans bad” has this double edged quality – it evokes sympathy, and it supplies a very plausible set of reasons for Hans to have gotten angry enough to have impulsively done something that was so terrible he cannot now admit it.

This disposition of Hans’ hard drive and the missing car seat cannot be fully explained by what Hans has offered so far. Perhaps wisely, the defense has let the narrative end on these points with Hans’ casual, mundane explanations. But Hans will be required on cross examination to explain in much more detail why he did what he did and to tell everyone where these things are right now. An “I don’t recall” won’t be good enough for a computer genius with an excellent memory and blood in his car.

This will go on for some time.

Stay tuned…

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