When I was interviewed by the CBS 48 Hours team during and after the trial, I learned two things from their production staff and other contacts:

(1) That in a sealed plea bargain – rejected at the last minute by Hans, pre-trial – he was to accept a voluntary manslaughter conviction and a low prison term;

(2) That after he was convicted, there were immediate rumors about a possible deal involving the body location in exchange for a reduction in punishment.

So the recent developments, that the rumors have ripened into a story posted by WIRED’s intrepid reporter, David Kravets, were not unexpected.

Here is the link to his WIRED story:

And an excerpt:

Hans Reiser Offers To Lead Cops to Nina’s Body

By David Kravets June 06, 2008

“Hans Reiser…might disclose the location of Nina Reiser’s body in exchange for a reduced term, Alameda County District Attorney Thomas Orloff told Threat Level on Friday.

“’There’s been some overtures,’ he said. ‘But everything is in its preliminary stage.’”

“T. O.” has a gift for understatement.

Here’s the lay of the land as I see it from my remote viewing platform across the estuary:

There are two recurring themes in most felony trials I’ve seen over the years:

(a) Post-conviction buyer’s remorse, in the form – “Damn, I should have listened to my lawyer.”

(b) Evidence of bad advice from others, as in – “Damn, I shouldn’t have listened to [Momm] or [Dad]!”

I believe that Hans’ decision to reject a good plea bargain and to testify in his own case were both the product of improvident parental advice. Of course, now he wants that plea bargain back. But that boat has left the dock.

We are entitled to ask: Why would the prosecution give this defendant anything now?

There are a number of factors at play, here.

First: Judge Larry Goodman is in charge. He can veto any agreement. He also can make certain arrangements without the DA’s overt support. As the so called “13th juror”, Judge Goodman has the inherent authority to reduce the conviction from first degree murder to second degree. A fortiori, he has the ability to work his own deal with the defense, if he chooses.

Second: As a public official, the DA is entitled to take into account the interests of the victim’s family and friends who want closure. A second degree murder would not be giving away the store in any event, since many of us experts were surprised that the jury reached first degree.

Third: If the DA can secure a guilty plea from Reiser, that is worth a great deal because it effectively eliminates an appeal and puts the case to rest once and for all.

I would not expect to see a reduction below second degree unless it was accompanied by specific factual findings to support it, a guilty plea, the upper term for that offense and possible one or more additional charges (think perjury and obstruction of justice).

The whole business is tricky to accomplish and the defendant – well, the term squirrelly comes to mind. So when Tom Orloff cautions that this might not go down, he isn’t exaggerating. So far I’ve seen nothing to indicate that the defendant himself in on board…

Stay tuned.


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