PEOPLE V REISER: THE DA’S ARGUMENT
LOOKING LIKE A GUILTY DUCK
Over the last day and a half, Paul Hora argued with intelligence and passion. He stressed that intense probability amounts to common sense certainty where circumstantial evidence is concerned, and he stressed that outrageous duplicity amounts to a guilty cover-up where a defendant’s testimony is concerned.
“The fact that a murderer may successfully dispose of the body of the victim does not entitle him to an acquittal…That is one form of success for which society has no reward.”
“Nina, from what we know about her, was the kind of mother that would never abandon those kids. She would never do that. There’s a bond between mother and child. I’ve seen it, you’ve seen it. It’s powerful. It’s sincere. That’s not to say that one out of a million people do leave their kids, kill their kids. Yeah, it’s happened, but by and large, unless you know something about this woman that nobody else does, there’s no way.”
Palmer (Hans’ mother) said “I can’t imagine her leaving the children,” Palmer said, adding, “Something must have happened to her.
Hora then recounted Nina’s plans for her future, the pictures on her refrigerator, the money she left behind.
Hora read Nina’s text message to her boyfriend at 12:55 on her last day: “We are at the BB finally and are having lunch. I’m sorry I missed your call, my love. It’s great that you stopped to say goodbye. Have a fun trip, pirates. Love you lots.”
I’ll not go through all this except to say that it was sufficiently compelling that few on the jury will actually believe at this point in the trial that Nina Reiser voluntarily skipped town.
If you are keeping score, here, mark this down: Paul Hora has persuaded all reasonable jurors (are there 12?) that Nina did not skip town on September 3, 2006; she had planned to stay in the game.
Then Hora moved to Hans’ behavior and made the point – supported by the behaviors we’ve already talked about in this blog – that Hans acted as if Nina was dead and as someone who was perfectly comfortable with that. Hora quoted e-mails from Hans – “You are evil” and another one comparing her to the Nazis.
[I can find no reference, however, to an e-mail (Nina’s reply was suppressed by Judge Goodman) in which Han threatened Nina. Is this in a set of documents that the jury will be permitted to review? Again, this e-mail, if seen by the jury would reassure some jurors who still harbor lingering doubts and trouble other who are leaning for acquittal.]
Hora recounted the bitter arguments the couple had over child custody and chronicled Hans’ increasingly diminished time with his children. He referred to officer Denson’s warning to Nina about Hans. [Recall the recommendation that Nina get a gun to defend herself.]
All this was part of an increasingly tense accumulation of grievances leading up to September 3rd 2006. Notably, on August 25th of the same year, just 8 days before Nina’s last argument with Hans, he was arraigned for contempt because of delinquent child support payments. Within two days of that fateful Sunday, Hans was still agitating County Supervisor Steele about his divorce case.
Then Hora used the defense blood witness to stress that Nina’s blood on the Exeter house “post” – a droplet spatter pattern – was probably deposited by blood “flying through the air”. That, he said, “doesn’t sound like a nosebleed”.
Hora did an excellent job of reviewing and vividly reminding the jury of all the defendant’s cover-up behaviors – too many to recount here.
Hora suggested that the reason that Hans showed up at Adventure Time just before Nina might otherwise have appeared to pick up the children was that he knew she was dead and didn’t want the children left alone.
If you are keeping score: Hora has convinced the reasonable jurors that Hans knew that Nina was not going to pick up the children before anyone else knew that.
Hans did nothing, Hora pointed out, to check on his children from the time the should have been picked up on the 5th until Ellen called him late that evening, and still made no effort to get his children or to look for Nina. Hora argued that – assuming Nina was missing – Hans was the logical person to help locate her because he knew her description, clothing, when she was last seen, where she was headed. But Hans chose to do nothing except to say that he needed to see a lawyer.
Hora made further points in his discussion of the CRX, pointing out that it “went missing” on the same day that Nina Reiser “went missing”.
Hora was particularly effective in puncturing Hans’ various and sometimes inconsistent explanations about his strange, evasive behavior with the CRX, leaving only one reasonable inference standing: Hans wanted to hide that car from the very first day.
Hora continued to bore in on Hans obsession with the CRX, asking the jury why – if Hans had just flooded the car with water because of some dreadful smell – would he then sleep in it and live with the smell for eight more days.
Returning to Hans-as-deceptive witness, Hora reminded the jury how clear and exact Reiser’s memory was about so many important things, and how he was obsessive about details. Then –
“[Hans] had 17 months since his arrest in October before testifying in court about how he was going to explain why the seat was missing. I mean, he had to explain that. ‘Cuz the first thing you think of is ‘this guy’s wife’s missing, and the body’s missing and his front seat’s missing?’ I mean, it’s an incredibly incriminating circumstance. He’s gotta offer an explanation for that seat being missing. He has no choice. He’s been thinking about it for a long time.”
Hora reminded the jury that Hans had earlier described a plan to reconfigure the CRX for a futon, then he recounted how he had asked Hans about that. “He never once, not once, mentioned the futon plan. And this guy never leaves out details, ever.” When Hora called him on the inconsistency — “He looked like he got kicked in the gut. He began to cough. His whole body language changed. He was caught off guard. He hadn’t pre-manufactured an excuse like he did for the car seat and all of the other evidence. He was caught in a lie, and boy did it show.”
Hora, assuming (probably accurately) that some of the jurors caught the moment, then asked, “Why did he lie?”
Over and over again Paul Hora connected the dots between a lying and deceptive accused and a guilty accused. This is undoubtedly why the defense (in my opinion) tried to dissuade Hans from testifying at all…
Then Hora raised an intriguing point. The blood marked sleeping bag cover was (according to testimony) at the Exeter house on Sept. 13. This raised a question, Hora posited, about how Nina’s blood could have had gotten on the sack.
Hora -”Easy — it touched another item that did have Nina’s blood on it… How easy would it be for the sleeping bag sack to pick up a little bit of Nina’s blood from the carpet or seat? It would explain why the DNA result was [a] really faint, low quantity DNA blood sample. It wasn’t as if she was openly bleeding on the sleeping bag sack.”
Hora then turned to the first degree – second degree murder question, stressing evidence of Hans’ malice towards Nina, and left the matter in their hands.
I’ve not attempted to do justice to this long argument (a full day and a half)in detail. From all accounts, Paul Hora was at the top of his game and gave the defense both barrels. In studying his narrative, I was reminded of the “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and had feathers like a duck” line of argument. Hora could add to this line of argument, I imagined, that Hans was a strange duck (substitute wife-killer, here, for clarity). but a duck nevertheless.
So you can magine my surprise when Bill DuBois opened h-s own argument this afternoon, by comparing his client to a duck-billed platypus. You just can’t make this stuff up.
Hora gets an “A” for an argument in a case where nothing less than a “A” will do. I’ll cover the defense argument tomorrow.