THE HARD DRIVE TRAP
The last minute focus on Reiser’s hard drives was a predictable consequence of the attempt to hide them for a year and a half. I am persuaded that Hans was naïve enough to believe that the drives might be secure in his lawyer’s hands. Their late disclosure will give a sort of “TaDA!” effect to the end of evidence, something that would never have occurred had they been in police hands from the first. As I explain below, that last minute emphasis could cut either way, depending on what is actually found.
Advice to Criminals with HARD DRIVES:
Never give your suspicious hard drives to the same law firm that you choose to represent you in the related criminal case, because you can be sure that eventually the material will be discovered by the prosecution. And you risk damage to the credibility of your own legal team when you put them in this position, especially if it turns out that the evidence has been altered in some way. Instead, give the drives to another law firm not related to the criminal case and ask them to keep the entire transaction confidential, and please, please don’t be naïve enough to tell them that there is incriminating information on them. And do not reveal to your criminal defense team that you have done this. Oh… And do not take the witness stand if you really intend to conceal evidence.
Here’s the trap. After all this fuss, it actually helps the defense if it turns out after all the fuss that the drives contain nothing but innocuous, business-related files AND there is no evidence of any September 3, 2006 or post September 3, 2006 file deletion or erasure. It helps the defense because it reinforces the defense portrayal of a slightly paranoid geek who, though innocent, manages to make himself look guilty because of his personal quirks.
I’ve already indicated that there is no chance the DA’s team will find a “Dear dairy, this is how I killed Nina” entry. But at a minimum, the DA’s expert might hope to uncover copies of threatening e-mails addressed to Nina in which Hans made reference to his martial arts training. But they might be stale, in effect capturing a much more volatile period in the divorce. That should not impair their admissibility, but might diminish their forensic impact somewhat.
Ah, but an e-mail along those lines within a few weeks prior to September 3rd 2006? That could actually lose the case for the defense, given the enhanced last minute attention.
But the hard drive mother lode, if it exists, would consist of any case pertinent files that were written, downloaded or modified by Hans on September 3, and in the immediately following days. This would give everyone a window into what Hans was most concerned about during those critical evening hours when only the killer knew that Nina was dead. For example, a downloaded map of the Oakland Hills around the time of Nina’s disappearance could be damning.
Hans might have told DuBois, “Don’t worry, there is nothing on those drives to worry about. They won’t find a thing.” Hans is just clueless enough that he might not realize until, too late, that he has left something truly incriminating behind in those drives. This is why, in spite of any reassurances from Hans, that Bill DuBois can’t rest easy until he knows everything that has been discovered on the hard drives.
A correspondent who might know, wrote me today:
Hans Reiser is one of the foremost geniuses about file systems. He was working for the US government on a DARPA funded project. He was also working with the Russians. To put it another way, he could add or delete any information he wanted to with whatever date he wanted to at any time and it would be totally and completely untraceable.