THE APRIL FOOL’S DAY SESSION WITH HANS
TUESDAY, APRIL 1, 2008.
This is a snapshot of Reiser’s testimony. I’ll have some comments at the end of this interim posting, and more after DuBois’ redirect tomorrow.
In a non-jury session on March 26, the defense announced that it will call a DNA expert tomorrow (presumably interrupting Reiser’s further examination if necessary). Other defense witnesses will include Nina’s boyfriend, Anthony Zografos, Ryan Gill, a “missing persons” investigator, and the OPD officer who took young R’s original statement.
THE CALL FROM ELLEN
Hans resumed his interrupted cross examination by confirming that Ellen, Nina’s friend – the one who had picked up the children at school when Nina didn’t show and Hans’ mother was unavailable — had called Hans at 9:21 P.M. on Sept. 5. Reiser says he took the call at Mark’s house, the residence of his Mom’s boyfriend. Recall that this was the phone call monitored by OPD with Ellen’s consent, the call that ended when Hans said ‘I need to talk to my lawyer”.
Q: Did Hans say that? Hans: “I can’t recreate the wording.”
WASHING THE DRIVEWAY
Hans agreed that when he returned to the Exeter house (we assume taking Mom home with him, using her hybrid) he began washing the driveway. In later testimony, Hora showed Hans evidence that on the night of September 3rd the nearly full moon was bright. Hans claimed not remember the moon.
Hans testified that he had washed the Exeter driveway on only two occasions, both because of tree droppings – September 3 was the second. Did he do a better job washing the night of September 3rd? Hans could not recall.
WASHING THE CRX AND THAT AWFUL SMELL
Before examining Hans about what he washed or otherwise disposed of that night, there was this set-up exchange:
HORA: And you’re saying you didn’t commit any crime when she was at Exeter, right?
HANS: That’s correct.
HORA: Had nothing to hide that afternoon, right?
HANS: That’s correct.
Then Hans was asked about washing the interior of the CRX with a hose, requiring the use of a siphon pump to remove the water. That exchange elicited this unexpected gem:
HANS: The thing you haven’t asked me if after the siphon pump, the smell remained, and it was a fiasco.
I can imagine a number of jurors thinking: Smell? You don’t suppose….
There followed a series of questions about the smell – What was it? When did Hans notice it? And so on.
Hans settled on spilled milk, probably on the carpet in front of the passenger seat but permeating the CRX. Hans was unspecific about when he first became concerned about the smell, but presumably he didn’t want his mother to complain.
HORA: Did you try to clean it?
HORA: Did you also hose out the back of the car?
HANS: Uh no, but I did clean the back of the car.
HORA: So you didn’t spray any water in the back of the car?
HANS: No, but I think some water got back in there.
THE MISSING TRIM ASSEMBLY
In related questioning Hans revealed that he had removed a “trim assembly’ from the rear of the CRX because it smelled.
Where did Hans dispose of it?
Hans was unable to say, except that he put it in a trash receptacle somewhere in Oakland or San Leandro.
There was a long exchange about Hans’ long postponed plans to make the CRX more comfortable – apparently that project became more urgent on the evening of September 3, 2006 and in the ensuing days.
THAT FINAL DIVORCE DISCUSSION
In a separate line of questioning, Hora took Reiser through the events on September 3 from the time Nina arrived until just before her departure. Some highlights:
· During the couple’s divorce discussions, the two children were eating by themselves on the lower level of the home.
· Hans reiterated that Nina had offered to give him her interest in his company because Nina and her divorce attorney (Shelly Gordon) had concluded that the asset “was worthless if they tried to take it from me. It’s a company that has upon my arrest, became absolutely worthless.”
· Hans was unable to say whether Nina told him that night said she was going to file for bankruptcy, but he opined that he, himself, had contemplated filing under Chapter 13 to buy time for debt relief.
· When Nina abruptly decided to leave, Hans denied that he tried to restrain her: “Nothing prevented her from leaving except my talking.”
In follow up questions, Hans said he only slept one night in the CRX after the seat was removed. He moved a red box of documents from the Exeter house to a rental car at some undetermined point.
Hans pulled several thousand dollars from his bank soon after Nina’s disappearance because he thought it would be “safer” in his fanny pack.
Why did Hans visit Reno in late September?
Hans: When I looked at a map and calculated that it was four hours away.
Hora: Why did you choose Reno as your destination? Were you looking for something that was four hours away?
Hans: Four hours is my driving limit in terms of comfort for my legs?
Hora: Why did you withdraw money from a U.S. Bank in Truckee if it would charge you a fee?
Hans: Because people are following me.
Hans apparently spent several days there. Doing what?
Hans: You can surf the Web at various places.
Evidently, Hans missed a child custody hearing on September 27th because he had not yet returned from this jaunt. As a result he missed confronting included Nina’s mother, Irina Sharanova.
Rather than take a long explanation, Hora, undoubtedly worn down by this frustrating witness, concluded the examination, leaving the redirect to Dubois tomorrow.
Hans continued to fence with Hora today but there were no major internal inconsistencies in his testimony except the ‘selective’ memory problem, i.e., Hans’ uncanny ability to remember some detail as if he has an eidetic memory, then becoming suddenly unable to recall where he tossed potential evidence. A “memory lapse”, however improbable, is a better tack (for someone attempting to hide things) because we can be sure that the DA’s office is leaving no stone unturned to recover the missing car seat or to demonstrate that it couldn’t have been disposed of when and where Hans testified before. So in this session, so far as I can tell as of the break, Hans has provided the DA with no refutable material details.
Jurors are probably seeing this through two lenses, one that treats every new revelation darkly (a possible bankruptcy discussion as a hot topic that might have set Hans off, a frantic washing of the CRX as an attempt to get rid of the smell left by Nina’s corpse), and one that is still unpersuaded that Hans could have pulled this off (asking in effect, ‘Where’s the beef?” Hans’ loopy behavior proves nothing). This is why it will be crucial for the prosecution to be able to demonstrate in rebuttal that Hans has not been truthful with the jury. If that takes place, then a number of other things will fall into place and votes will begin to shift toward guilty-as-charged.
Can the prosecution get all twelve? That depends of far too many unknowns. Was any juror or set of jurors actually persuaded by Hans’ denials in the stand? How much damage to the DA’s case will the defense DNA expert be able to do? In my opinion, the dynamic of this case now puts a great deal of pressure on the prosecution to come up with effective rebuttal evidence. So far, Hans has not won his case by testifying but he hasn’t given it up to the prosecution either.