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The Reiser Trial Pre-Evidence Phase Summary

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You Be the Judge

A strong case argues itself.  This is another way of saying that facts speak louder than lawyers. If not, the lawyers are in trouble.

Here are the elements of proof we are led to expect that the Reiser jury will hear starting tomorrow in the murder trial against Hans for allegedly killing the (still missing, “bodiless”) Nina.

Hans, a Linux software guru, famous enough in his field that WIRED is following the trial, and Nina, a young Russian woman, were married in her home country in 1999. 

Flash forward to 2006.  The cast of characters (minus Nina’s mother) now lives in the Bay Area, USA. There are two children, now the objects of dispute in a bitter divorce that Nina initiated in 2004 because hubby was too distant. There are charges of about $12,000 unpaid child support; the custody struggle between the parents is ongoing.  Mr. Reiser is living with his mother in Oakland.  Nina Reiser is living with the kids in Oakland as well as reportedly enjoying the romantic attentions of Sean, her loosely wrapped paramour. 

Nina has just gotten Russian citizenship for the two children.

On or about Friday, September 1, Hans and Nina bitterly argue – with the help of lawyers – over how their kids’ time would be sent on the coming Labor Day Weekend. An agreement is reached that the time would be split between the parents. 

On Sunday, September 3, 2006, Nina takes the children with her to the Berkeley Bowl grocery store, where she is caught on the security camera.  She places two very brief cell calls to Hans, then shows up at Hans’ place (actually his mother’s home, the so called “Exeter house”) to drop off the children, presumably per the agreement reached on Friday.

Throughout, Nina is driving her 2001 Honda Odyssey Van.

The Reiser’s son, Rory - age about 6 - once said that he saw Mom depart after he and his sister were dropped off, but that is now in dispute.  Rory also once said that he had a dream or a vision of someone carrying a large, heavy object down the stairs the night of September 3. That, too, is in dispute.

Hans’ mother was not home at the Exeter house on September 3.  She is at the “Burning Man” festival in Nevada.

What is not in dispute is that Nina has not been reported seen alive since.  

It is not until Tuesday, September 5 that someone reports Nina missing. Nina’s friend Ellen, calls the police after picking up the two kids at school, apparently around 5:30, but can’t locate Nina. She calls Hans, tells him that Nina is missing and asks to keep the kids. His reply: Uh uh”. 

Then Ellen tells Hans the she knows that Nina was at his house Sept 3.  Hans’ reply: “I need to talk with my attorney.”

On that same date, Hans is seen hosing down his driveway at 11 PM.

On September 6, Nina’s van is discovered parked on the street about three miles from the Exeter house; this is on a path not consistent with driving directly to her home - about 5 miles from the Exeter place. 

This is what police discovered in the Odyssey van:

  • Nina’s cell phone without the battery;

  • The groceries, rotting and in disarray;

  • Nina’s September 1 rent check to her landlord;

  • Nina’s books;

  • Nina’s apparently undisturbed wallet with cash, grocery receipts, drivers license, and so on.

  • No blood, so signs of a robbery or struggle, and

  • No car keys.

When Police finally obtained a search warrant they searched the Exeter house September 13 and 14.  There is a floor to ceiling pole near the front entrance. There is one blood spot & two smears about 3 and ½ feet from the floor.  Most of the blood was Nina’s and some of the blood was Hans’.

Hans’ car was a Honda CRX.  Because of battery problems he also drove Mom’s Honda hybrid. Allegedly Hans’ car is “missing” for some time after suspicion focuses on him but is located by police on September 18 after surveillance and a chase.  It is parked on street.  The front passenger seat is missing; the floorboard is saturated with water.  The socket wrench set used to remove the seat is recovered from the car. Other interesting items recovered were a siphon pump, trash bags, masking tape, paper towels,  a copy of Masterpieces of Murder, and Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. [The books were purchased on September 8.]

Traces of Nina’s blood were found in Hans’ car.  It is unclear exactly where in the vehicle the blood was found but the DNA match apparently is solid.

When Hans is brought in for a DNA sample, his fanny pack is searched.  He has $9,000 cash and his passport. His cell phone has its battery removed.  He also has a three page memo attacking Nina and the family law courts.


I doubt the jury will convict Hans just because he became a bit squirrelly after suspicion focused on him.  But the jury will consider his evasiveness to be incriminating when he appeared to hide his CRX.  So far the defense has done as well as can be expected with this evidence, but the suggestion that Hans pulled the front passenger seat to make a homeless shelter for himself is not likely to fly.  And there is the not insignificant matter of Nina’s blood in all the wrong places.

All attention is now on young Rory.  Direct and cross examination of a key witness that young is difficult at best.  We can assume, however, that the prosecution didn’t go to all the trouble to transport him from Russia to an Oakland, California courtroom to hurt its case.  If I were Bill Du Bois, right now, I’d be worried.





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