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December 22, 2007

HANS REISER TRIAL - IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE...

 

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Day 20 of testimony in Hans Reiser’s murder trial ended Wednesday.  After hearing from 35 witnesses, the jury is in recess until the second Monday in January, the 14th.

It’s beginning to look a lot like …
LONG RECESS IN THE RESIER TRIAL – MUCH MORE TO COME

In this short week, the jury heard one more reason that Nina was not planning to skip town.  She’d paid for Step One of the U. S. Medical Licensing Examination and for prep classes at Berkeley’s Kaplan Center.  She last attended class on August 31, with 15 additional classes pre-paid and scheduled.

The OPD crime scene tech who examined and inventoried Nina’s abandoned minivan, the Honda Odyssey, on September 9 testified – describing Nina’s cell phone with its battery removed, seeing the scattered and spoiling groceries, etc.

The police officer who pulled over Hans driving the CRX on September 13 in Redwood City described the driver as “nervous”, noting that the car was full of candy wrappers and clothing.  DuBois will argue that Hans was living in the car.  Presumably, the officer would have noticed a missing seat, had it been removed by then.

NOTE:  In his opening statement, the DA has promised proof – yet to be heard – that a sleeping bag stuff sack was recovered form the CRX bearing traces of both Nina’s and Hans’ blood.

The last witness was a DA Inspector (the Alameda DA’s office has a full staff of detectives who are called Inspectors). Inspector Brock went through Han’s Honda CRX after it was seized by Oakland police on Sept. 19 on a residential street near Highway 13. The jury was shown photos of the CRX, depicting the missing passenger seat, then a replica passenger seat obtained from a salvage yard. It was from the following model year, but matched the fabric and look of the missing seat.

COMMENT

This jury is being invited to infer that Hans Reiser has disposed of evidence, after attempting to wash it away.  If he disposed of the car seat because it was incriminating, they will be asked to infer that he also disposed of his wife’s body.

If he testifies, he will be closely questioned about the disposition of the seat.  If he is evasive, the jury will assume he is concealing evidence of guilt.

By using the word “if” I am suggesting that DuBois may now be rethinking the earlier announced decision to call the defendant as a witness.  That decision, for better or worse, is always that of the accused, and – as I’ve already indicated – the defendant himself may be the defense’s worst problem.  You can bet that the defense team and Mr. Reiser will spend some time between now and January 14 revisiting the issue.  And you can also assume that the DA’s Inspectors will still be working the case.

On or before January 14th, I’ll post a case review and timeline.

Have a wonderful and safe holiday and avoid all crime and crime news if possible.

With apologies to Johnny Mathis –

IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE...

It’s beginning to look a lot like guilty,
Every day in court;

Take a look at all the blood stained places,
Examine those unexplained traces,

All that DNA to sort.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Nina,
Didn’t choose to roam;

And the scariest sight to see,

Is the smudge that Hans left to see
In his own Mom’s home.

It’s beginning to look a lot like recess,
Won’t change a thing;
The DA has no body and Hans has yet to sing,

And Hans has yet to sing…

 

 

December 18, 2007

A message from the Out-Lawyer....

 

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All contents, unless otherwise indicated are
Copyright © 2005, 2006 and 2007 by Jay B. Gaskill
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The Out-Lawyer is Traveling Soon…

snow

He’ll revisit Mr. Reiser’s legal problems
….. at the end of the week.

NOW I ASK YOU: IS THE FACE OF A KILLER?

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LINK TO PRINT VERSION -- http://jaygaskill.com/NOWIASKYOU.htm

NOW I ASK YOU: IS THIS THE FACE OF A KILLER?

 

As of yesterday’s testimony, the jury is getting the picture of an authoritarian Hans Reiser, a control freak who interferes with his son’s medical care who is also a martial arts expert capable of killing someone with brutal, quiet efficiency.

This is every woman’s nightmare ex-husband. 

And, while in custody in February, Hans is described by a fellow inmate as being riveted at a local television story of a body being discovered in the Oakland hills, then visibly relieved when it turned out to be that of a black male.

The defense must rely on the circumstantial evidence rule that will be read to the jury and referenced during argument.  When a proved circumstance (as in the defendant’s reaction to the television story of the body) is susceptible of two reasonable constructions, one pointing to guilt and the other to the absence of guilt, the jury is mandated to select the innocent interpretation, provided that it is reasonable.  People tend to think of the law – especially the criminal law – as a body of clear and bright line rules.  But the term “reasonable” infuses a loose variable. 

One juror’s reasonable doubt is another’s conviction.

Mr. Reiser’s problem is with cumulative nuance: A picture of this defendant’s nature - creepy, controlling and menacing - is seeping into the case like some dark Stephen King fog.  That fog will set the tone and the context for what a juror will take to be “reasonable”. 

So, in the end, all will turn on how the jury finally assesses Hans Reiser, the person. 

Jurors will withhold their final assessment until Reiser testifies.  I’m reminded of a Gary Larson cartoon once posted on my office wall.  It was a courtroom scene. All of the players were cats - the jurors, the judge, the prosecutor and the defense counsel - all except for the defendant. 

The defense counsel was arguing, “Now I ask you, Is that the face of a cat killer?”  And there he was in the dock, a large Gary Larson cartoon dog, tongue lolling as he did his very best to look innocent….

JBG

 

 
 
 

December 17, 2007

Like Paint Drying

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Copyright © 2005, 2006 and 2007 by Jay B. Gaskill
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 LIKE PAINT DRYING

Watching the Reiser case unfold is like watching paint dry.  The picture is emerging, but with painful slowness.  Today the jury heard from an ear, nose and throat specialist - who treated Reiser's boy and interacted with Hans.  Then two 'judo" buddies of Hans testified. I'll include these winesses when I pick up the thread later in the week.
THAT TIMELINE
The critical time period is about 50 hours: starting from when Nina left or didn't leave on dropping the kids about 3 PM on September 3 and when Hans picked up his returning mother at about 10 PM on the 5th.
 What follows is offered as a guess, only:
Re the first critical 50 hours - it appears that Hans was alone with the kids from say 3 PM on disappearance day,until Sept.5 when he picks up his mom at 10 PM.  Assuming, arguendo, he killed Nina on the 3rd, when the children were otherwise occupied with, say, video games, he had to work on the coverup while the kids were asleep, presumably using the nights of the 3rd and the 4th, which is consistent the report that he seemed very tired when he arrived to pick his Mom up. 
I don't recall any detailed testimony that addressed where the kids were and what they were doing during any of these key times. But Hans was seen outside hosing down his driveway after his Mom had presumably turned in on the night of September 5.
We can assume that if Hans is the killer, he has concealed the body somewhere away from the  house before his neighbor observed him hosing the driveway.  We can expect the DA to infer from the removal of the seat of the CRX that Hans (if guilty) thought the seat held crucial evidence that he hadn't been able to efface. One guess is that Nina's body was in that seat long enough to leave traces that Hans feared could be forensically detected. Dubois will argue otherwise, of course.
Since Nina's van was clean & presumably Mom's Hybrid was also clean, the DA will argue that Hans would have used the CRX to facilitate the murder.  If, for example, he had dragged the body into the CRX while it was still in the garage, he might have needed to wash the floor, then the driveway. And if he'd taken the CRX into a muddy area, he would want to hose down the tracks. 
Again, it's just a guess, but Hans (again assuming arguendo that he did it) would have needed an intermediate disposal area for the body on night one (Sept 3) whether he'd worked out the final disposal method by then or not. So he might have had to attend to "final" disposal night two, Sept 4.  Each night, he would have had to rely on the kids' sleeping habits for cover. 
No one could keep a fresh corpse near the house unless it was in a freezer and we can assume the police did a thorough search. 
As a crude measure, Hans would have had, say, only 6 usable hours each night, roughly two for travel to the site, two for "operations" at the site and two for return.  I doubt very much he would have traveled fast or on well lit pathways, so I would estimate a maximum practical distance of about 60 miles.
Again, watch the timeline.  The case may not get really interesting until after Christmas....
JBG

December 15, 2007

LET'S THINK LIKE A KILLER FOR A MOMENT

THE HANS REISER MURDER CASE

A HYPOTHETICAL 

If he did it without the assistance of someone, where is the body?  Obviously it would have been helpful (in this hypothetical scenario) if the killer had access to a crematorium.  But involving accomplices tends to involve witnesses. 

Query: Who might have been willing to help Hans?  A corollary question: We know that the police have interviewed Mr. Sturgeon.  What has he told them? Why was Mr. DuBois cut off when he tried to go there?

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Copyright © 2005, 2006 and 2007 by Jay B. Gaskill
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greetings 

HOLIDAY GOOD WISHES

FROM THE OUT-LAWYER

THINKING LIKE A KILLER

For today, let’s ask ourselves the question that the DA must eventually try to answer.  How could Hans have disposed of Nina’s corpse by himself?

I see six possible means, listing them in ascending order of likelihood: 1. Burning. [This would be much too hard to conceal, I would think.] 2. A chemical bath. [Same constraint.] 3. Burial. [A classic means, but one that can attract dogs.] 4. Remote storage. [The problem is that the killer probably could not accomplish this unnoticed within a two day time window.] 5. Interment in a construction site, a la Jimmie Hoffa. [One doubts that the killer had the necessary union contacts!] 6.  He left the corpse weighted down and secured under water. [See my thoughts below.]

A cursory review of the literature on women’s diving equipment yields the information that the natural buoyancy of a living woman’s body (remember her lungs would be holding air) is easily overcome with about 40 pounds of additional dead weight.  A cursory review of salvage companies dealing in wrecked automobile parts suggests that the Honda CRX passenger seat would weigh enough to cancel the natural buoyancy of Nina’s corpse. 

A quick look at a Google satellite map of the area north of Skyline Drive in Oakland, i.e., north of Hans’ location when Nina became “missing”, reveals a convenient body of water easily accessed by driving through the adjacent Redwood Regional Park. One easily gets to Chabot Reservoir, 315 acres, average depth 27 feet, with miles of water access from the road. Also in the running is the upper San Leandro Reservoir. Map at -- http://maps.yahoo.com/#lon=-122.121706&lat=37.78235&mag=3 . Click on satellite view & note that Hans would be somewhere near the lower left corner of the map.

If Hans is guilty, it is manifestly in his interest to get this trial over with (prevailing of course) before Nina’s body breaks free and floats to the surface, turns up in a remote storage bin or landfill. Jeopardy will have attached and he could not then be retried (assuming an acquittal of course).

JBG

A post comment

Yes, I am aware that Hans Reiser wil undoubtedly claim to have done the work on the CRX seat days after Nina's absence was brought to the attention of the authorities.

But he may have been washing mud from the CRX when seen by his neighbor earlier. 

And the seat apparently is still missing. 

So...if Hans testifies -- watch for a line of questions about the missing car seat, especially"Where is the seat now?" and "When did you dispose of it?".

 
 

 
 
 

December 14, 2007

REISER'S MURDER CASE IN REVIEW

  

All of my postings on the Reiser murder trial are posted in chronological order - current now through yesterday's session (12-13-07) - on "The Policy Think Site" at this link: http://jaygaskill.com/ReiserAllPosts.htm

JBG

December 13, 2007

TWO BAD DAYS FOR THE DEFENSE IN THE REISER CASE

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Copyright © 2005, 2006 and 2007 by Jay B. Gaskill
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PRINT VERSION OF THIS POST IS LINKED: http://jaygaskill.com/ReiserTwoBadDays.htm

THE REISER TRIAL
TWO BAD DAYS FOR THE DEFENSE

 

Wednesday, the DA called Nina’s girlfriend Ellen (she was the friend who picked up the children from school when Nina vanished). Her testimony shed light on the timeline and I suspect the effect on the jury was devastating.

 

It seems that, on the day Nina vanished, she was to meet Ellen at 6 PM for dinner, after dropping off the kids with Hans and picking up groceries.  Nina apparently changed her mind, taking the kids with her to Berkeley Bowl before going to Hans. When Nina didn’t show for dinner, Ellen left a message on Nina’s cell phone (now recovered and messages retrieved).  That was 6:30 PM.  When she called Nina again at 9 PM., Nina’s cell was turned off (consistent with having the batteries removed).

 

Ellen picked up the kids at an Oakland elementary School (the kids attended the Montessori School earlier in the day).  This is when she called Hans to ask about Nina. When Ellen told him (with police listening in) that she was last seen at his place, Hans said “I need to talk to my lawyer”.  Hans didn’t ask about Nina at all in that conversation.

 

You can be certain that, after hearing this testimony, not one juror is willing to believe that Nina had just decided to abandon her children and flee to Russia, leaving behind her car, wallet, money and driver’s license.

 

DuBois attempted with little success to use his opportunity to cross examine Ellen (she to portray Nina’s relationship with her nice boyfriend (Mr. Zografos) as less than fully trusting, and to draw out derogatory information about the “bad” boyfriend, Mr. Sturgeon.  Neither effort yielded anything materially useful to the defense.

 

Dubois asked Ellen whether she had talked to the Reiser boy about his statement at the preliminary hearing before judge Conger (not before the jury) where he described Mom as having actually left the Exeter house after saying goodbye.  This, of course, is absolutely crucial to the defense, because if Nina got to her car, it becomes difficult to imagine how Hans could have gotten away from the kids, killed her (presumably not in front of the neighbors) and spirited the body away.

 

Ellen couldn’t recall anything like that. But DuBois persisted in the line of questioning, hoping to imprint the matter in the jury’s mind.  This was a high stakes moment in the trial.  It appears that the boy’s prior testimony is not going to be read to the jury, so the defense is stuck with the more ambiguous version he gave in this courtroom. It also appears that Judge Goodman, aware of the high stakes for the defense, had DuBois on a very tight leash.  This was the exchange:

 

Judge Goodman: “Mr. DuBois, if you comment on the evidence that’s not before the jury one more time, I'm going to find you in contempt… Then DuBois began to refer to the boy’s earlier testimony. [Note the tone.  In friendlier exchanges, the attorneys in Judge Goodman’s court are often addressed by their first names.]

 

Judge Goodman: “I don’t care what he testified to at this point…I know what you’re doing, and you know what you’re doing, and I don’t appreciate it.” DuBois tried to respond.

 

Judge Goodman: “Mr. DuBois, I’m warning you for one more time, and it’s going to cost you money. The objection is sustained.”

 

This was the classic pre-contempt warning, followed by a visit to chambers.

 

Today, the DA called Hans’ neighbor, Jack, a building contractor. He’d been gone on the Labor Day weekend, but when he returned on September 5, he noticed Hans at 10 PM hosing down his driveway. The project took about half an hour.

 

Jack: “It was odd, even for Hans. We’re outdoors a lot. We never really see Hans participating in any exterior activities like cleaning or watering. He just comes and goes. I just thought it was kind of strange, especially because I had no idea what he was doing, like ‘Washing the driveway?’ It seemed out of character, that’s all.”

 

It was a hot summer night, but Hans was “dressed for winter” wearing a hunting jacket. Jack did not see Reiser’s CRX on the property that night or the next day.

 

In cross examination, DuBois tried to establish that Jack didn’t like Hans and that Hans was not a good neighbor.  The defense purpose is to later be use this in argument to discredit the witness for bias.  It won’t work.

 

Then the DA called Natalie who was in charge of the children’s after school program on the day Nina picked them up for the last time. Ellen had come by to pick up the kids at 2:30, but Natalie wouldn’t immediately release them.  She called Hans, leaving a message. Hans didn’t call back.  Then –about 5 PM, a few minutes before Ellen came back for the kids – Hans arrived.  He mentioned nothing about Nina or the calls.  It seems he was not there to pick up the kids – just wanted to chat about the after school enrollment policies.  The witness remarked that his demeanor was strange.

 

Natalie: “He was very nervous-like.  There was no eye contact with me whatsoever, just very hyper. Was not calm at all.”

 

Reiser agreed to let Ellen pick up the kids.

 

The afternoon witness was Mary Jo, the employer in charge of a large, Bay Area nonprofit that had tested, interviewed and ultimately offered Nina a $50,000 a year position with full benefits. Nina accepted on September 1 and was to start on September 21.

 

The defense cross examination attempted to show the limited nature of the background check for new hires.  That line of questioning went nowhere.

COMMENTS

The jury now knows vividly what it earlier only heard in outline. The cumulative power of this evidence continues to shift the inquiry and focus to – How could Hans have pulled this off?

 

If Hans killed his wife, his behavior at the after school program not longafter Nina was last seen alive was consistent with someone who had just realized that he’s “solved” his marital problem only to acquire a new one: What do I do with the body? 

When this jury retires to deliberate some time next year, they will ask for a map and a calendar.

 

At this stage in the trial Hans is looking to this jury more and more like the one person who can answer the question: What really happened to Nina?  The jury will probably never buy Hans’ conspiracy defense, leaving his lawyer to develop an effective reasonable doubt argument in spite of his client’s “KGB” theories.  The things that Hans must sell personally, while getting through a long and challenging cross examination are: (1) Nina left alive and (2) Here’s why the blood traces were found where they were.  A serious failure on the witness stand by this defendant could greatly help the prosecution.  But – unless Hans actually confesses – the DA has an evidentiary hole to close. 
To convict Hans of killing Nina, the prosecution will need to advance at least one plausible theory, consistent with all the evidence and supported by at least some of it, covering the following questions: Where and when did the killing probably happen? When did Hans have “free’ time after Nina was at his door, time when he was unobserved? What method of body disposal would be capable of frustrating the authorities for all this time?  What access did Hans have to that method?
But some of the heavy lifting has already been done.  All members of this jury now understand why Hans would want to kill Nina, and many of them are beginning to get used to the idea that he was actually emotionally capable of doing it.

 

JBG

 

 

December 12, 2007

Has the REISER defense made a crucial mistake?

 

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And
The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com
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Copyright © 2005, 2006 and 2007 by Jay B. Gaskill
Permission to publish, distribute or print all or part of this article (except for personal use) is needed. [Permission for use in group discussions is almost always routinely given.]
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REISER TRIAL – the week of December 10
Has the defense made a crucial mistake?

 

This week’s testimony (Monday & Tuesday) made it evident that the prosecution is working very hard to nail down two things: (1) That Nina Reiser evidenced no plans to leave the area or her children and (2) That Hans had a strong motive to get Nina out of his life.  In a sense, the evidence this week was a bit cumulative but that is the point: DA Hora needs to change the psychological dynamic of the case from “I wonder if Hans did it?” to “I wonder how Hans did it?”  This kind of character evidence - Nina as the loving Mom and Hans as the controlling, angry husband increasingly oppressed by Nina - has a powerful cumulative psychological effect.   Turning the jury in this way is crucial to the DA’s case because the gaping hole still remains, not so much the absence of a corpse, but the – so far – absence of a good theory about how Hans might have gotten ride of it.
With this backdrop, here is a brief review of the salient evidence so far this week:
At a Montessori School party, Hans shocked two fellow parents when he said “that his family and Nina were a financial burden to him and that he felt he would be fine financially if he did not have to take care of them…He was complaining about Nina.” The witness opined that “it was a strange thing to say. It really stood out to me. I thought it was inappropriate.” Then that parent’s husband, who also heard Hans vent, added, “His tone was kind of vehement. It was not the kind of thing you'd expect to hear at an occasion like this, a casual social occasion.” No kidding.  And note the thematic link to the police officer’s testimony who advised Nina to get a gun to protect herself from Hans.  The jury will neither forget nor discount this stuff. But they will discount the defense suggestion that all is explained by his client’s social ineptitude, the so called, “social retard” defense.
A month before her disappearance, Nina met with a bankruptcy attorney.  She was deep in debt.  One asset was her community property interest in Hans’ company, but her overall position was so bleak that she couldn’t possibly get a “fresh start” without filing.  She told the attorney that she was to start a new job at the end of September.  They discussed whether Hans would do a joint filing with her.  She vanished before the follow-up appointment.
Two things are important here. 
  • Nina had an interest in Hans’ company and had apparently broached the topic of a joint bankruptcy filing and that he presumably refused.  The jury may conclude that, having built his software company, Hans would deeply resent his to-be-ex-wife interfering with that business in any way, let alone dragging it into bankruptcy court. 
  • Nina has positive expectations for the post-bankruptcy era, starting later in September.  This jury will see the pattern here of a life interrupted by some untoward event, something that happened on September 3.  Other than Hans himself, there are no available witnesses to a marital fight over the bankruptcy issue, but to the extent that the jury is getting a picture of Hans as tightly wound, angry and controlling, one can imagine this dispute drawing blood.
This is probably a good time to share my suspicion that the defense has very likely made a huge mistake.  No one can fault Bill DuBois for announcing that his client will take the stand, even though that sets up an expectation that will damage the case if Hans changes his mind. 
But the defense seems committed to the increasingly unmarketable notion – a product in part of Hans’ insistence, I’m sure - that Nina and the shadowy KGB Russians are running some kind of disappearance scheme here.  Even if that were actually true (& I doubt that it is), the DA is doing a good job in discrediting the whole theory.  And where does that leave Hans? It leaves the defense effectively unable to pose one or more alternative theories that are much more plausible.
For example, it is at least possible that Nina was stalked by kidnappers who thought – erroneously – that she was the wife of a wealthy businessman and that - as the mother of his children - she had some ransom value.  Once they learn the truth, the disappointed kidnappers kill Nina and dispose of her body.  As farfetched as this theory may seem, it needs to be juxtaposed against the jury’s nagging doubts about Hans: Was it even possible for him to have killed Nina and so thoroughly covered his tracts that, after a full year, the corpse has never been found?
And there are other possible theories – and all of them have the virtue that they don’t hang on the slender thread of Hans’ KGB conspiracy nonsense.  The only reason that DuBois may have allowed himself to get trapped in a single theory is the insistence of his client.  This brings me back to where my analysis started at the beginning of the case. 
The biggest problem with this defense case may turn out to be the defendant himself.
Stay tuned…

 
 

December 10, 2007

Reiser's Family Was a Burden?

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And
The Policy Think Sitehttp://www.jaygaskill.com
All contents, unless otherwise indicated are
Copyright © 2005, 2006 and 2007 by Jay B. Gaskill
Permission to publish, distribute or print all or part of this article (except for personal use) is needed. [Permission for use in group discussions is almost always routinely given.]
Please contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com

 

 

  
Monday's testimony will be discussed late Wednesday, along with tomorrow's.  Today, the jury learned that Hans told one witness that he would be better off without the financial burden of wife and children.  He was wrong....

 

ON CROSS EXAMINATION THE DEFENSE INTRODUCED "THE SOCIAL RETARD DEFENSE." Stay tuned...

JBG

December 07, 2007

FOLLOWING THE REISER TRIAL - SOME LINKS

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And
The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com
All contents, unless otherwise indicated are
Copyright © 2005, 2006 and 2007 by Jay B. Gaskill
Permission to publish, distribute or print all or part of this article (except for personal use) is needed. [Permission for use in group discussions is almost always routinely given.]
Please contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com

 

 

FOLLOWING THE REISER TRIAL: 

SOME LINKS

 

My own analysis of this ongoing trial is informed by knowing the courtroom, the local criminal trial scene, the judge, and many of the players from long professional contact.  But like the rest of us, I can’t afford the time to actually be there.

Here are some good sources:

The S F Gate / San Francisco Chronicle site: Start at  www.sfgate.com   then navigate via the Search box to “Reiser” and “Reiser blog”.  The series of print articles are written by reporter Henry Lee.  There is also a blog, with in-court reporting closer to real time.  That link is  www.sfgate.com/ZBLS .

WIRED Magazine. Start www.wired.com/  then navigate to the Search box, search blogs under  “Reiser” and you’ll find David Kravets’ excellent articles, complete with courtroom drawings by Norman Quebedeau.  These appear much less frequently than the steady Chronicle coverage but they are well worth a browse.

The Oakland Tribune coverage by reporter Chris Metinko. Start at www.insidebayarea.com/ . In the Search field go to Reiser

Coverage by Court TV is spotty.  Go to http://www.courttv.com/home_news/   and search for Reiser.

Any other good first hand sources?  Do let me know.

JBG

 

December 06, 2007

THE DEFENSE INFLICTS ITS FIRST REAL DAMAGE

 

As Published On
The Out-Lawyer’s Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog1

The Bridge to Being Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog2/  

The Human conspiracy Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog3
And
The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com
All contents, unless otherwise indicated are
Copyright © 2005, 2006 and 2007 by Jay B. Gaskill
Permission to publish, distribute or print all or part of this article (except for personal use) is needed. [Permission for use in group discussions is almost always routinely given.]
Please contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com

The print version of this post is at this link: http://jaygaskill.com/ReiserCrossExam1206.htm  .

THE REISER MURDER TRIAL ON THURSDAY 12-6
THE DEFENSE INFLICTS ITS FIRST SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE

As the session ended on Wednesday, the jury listened to about 30 minutes of messages in Nina’s cell.  Her last messages included calls from Boyfriend Zografos but nothing from Hans.  There was nothing further to clarify or refine the timeline because, as we all know, even living people can take a day or so to get around to answering their messages.

Thursday started predictably enough.  We learned, for example, that after Nina was missing, the boyfriend Zografos passed out 5,000 fliers and arranged for 18 billboards - Reiser evidently didn’t help.  Given the acrimony between the two, that isn’t surprising.

The Bill DuBois conducted a very effective cross examination. IT began with--

THE SET UP

DuBois: “You and Nina had a relationship of absolute trust, you would say?”.
Boyfriend: “I would say that.”
DuBois: “You trusted Nina, right?”
Boyfriend: “I did.”
DuBois: “You think she was looking for other men when she was dating you?”
Boyfriend: “I know she wasn’t.”
DuBois: “You say that with some authority.”
Boyfriend: “I knew Nina well.”

THE TOYING

First, DuBois pressed about Zografos last message – “Everything can be fixed.” The defense asked a line of questions suggesting that the couple was having trouble and that Nina was in financial distress.  Zografos denied this.

Then he began a line of questions about Zografos knowing that Nina had borrowed money from her ex lover, Sean Sturgeon.  Evidently he did know.  Dubois asked whether she had asked Sean for money even after she was no longer seeing the guy. Zografos knew that, too.

Then a series of questions designed to elicit damaging character material about Sturgeon were cut off, including an attempt to get in the notion that Sean was a “sex worker”. DuBois is pressing against a wall here.  We can infer that this sort of derogatory information about the ex boyfriend has been ruled out of bounds.  This is dangerous territory for the DA because when a jury thinks valuable, potential exculpatory information is being kept away from them, they are inclined to punish the prosecution.  DuBois has elicited just enough for the jury to begin to wonder.

Earlier I speculated that Sturgeon must have an iron clad alibi or have been ruled out a suspect for equally sound reasons.  If this is not the case, then we can expect the defense to go even further with this line.

THE SCORE

Finally DuBois scored with a series of questions about Nina using Craigslist for dating even when she was with Zografos.  It was all just play, the the witness said, telling the jury that he knew about it.

But the seed of doubt has been sown.  Several jurors are now asking themselves questions.  "Is it possible that some creep from Craigslist began stalking her?"  "Didn’t we hear about child molesters exploiting that service?'  [If Nina herself was not listed, that is a fact I'd expect the DA to address.] "Is it possible that there was some trouble with the ex boyfriend?" Once these questions are released, they just don't fade away. 

I am still persuaded that this jury will not believe that Nina abandoned her kids and framed Hans. But they just might be persuaded that she was attacked by someone other than Hans, now that the theory begins to take more plausible shape   To prevail, the DA will need to firmly knock down each of these ghost assailant theories. 

In a case this closely balanced it won’t take much to turn several jurors into the reasonable doubt column. 

But all this talk is premature.  All too often has a defense attorney seemed to make great headway in cross examination, only to have the defense case melt away when additional evidence piles on.  And there is no reasonable doubt defense case so sturdy that a single defendant on the witness can’t deliver a conviction.

Keep THE KEY things in mind: The timeline, the specific locations of all the identified blood and Hans’ behavior.

The trial resumes Monday.

And stay tuned…

JBG

 
 
 

ONE MORE THING...

As Published On
The Out-Lawyer’s Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog1

The Bridge to Being Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog2/  

The Human conspiracy Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog3
And
The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com
All contents, unless otherwise indicated are
Copyright © 2005, 2006 and 2007 by Jay B. Gaskill
Permission to publish, distribute or print all or part of this article (except for personal use) is needed. [Permission for use in group discussions is almost always routinely given.]
Please contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com

 

ONE MORE THING…

 

One more thing about the emerging timeline:  Yesterday, it was revealed that Nina’s recovered cellphone number (recall that it was found in her car - battery removed) had several unanswered messages from friends.  For this, the jury will reasonably draw the inference that she was out of the picture sometime on the afternoon of September 3, the day she said goodbye to her kids and happily text messaged her boyfriend.

Boyfriend’s testimony wraps up today. 

 

JBG

 
 

December 05, 2007

The Reiser Trial - Watch the Timeline

As Published On
The Out-Lawyer’s Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog1

The Bridge to Being Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog2/  

The Human conspiracy Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog3
And
The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com
All contents, unless otherwise indicated are
Copyright © 2005, 2006 and 2007 by Jay B. Gaskill
Permission to publish, distribute or print all or part of this article (except for personal use) is needed. [Permission for use in group discussions is almost always routinely given.]
Please contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com

 

 

The Reiser Trial – What to watch for?

The Critical Time Line: 

 

Recall that Nina is last seen alive (by anyone except her killer) at approximately 3:00 PM on September 3, Sunday of the Labor Day weekend.  We know it was some time after 2:02 PM because it was then that she called Hans, probably to say she was running late to deliver the kids.  In the mid afternoon Nina does leave both kids with Hans per their agreement.

Flash forward.  Hans - or his mother – takes the kids to school in Oakland on September 5, Tuesday. Nina’s friend picks up the kids in Oakland at 5:30 PM., by prior arrangement with Nina or because she hasn’t materialized.  Either way, Nina is now missing and the police get involved. 

What happened between 3 PM Sunday, September 3 and the time Hans’ mother returned from that weekend?  What did Hans’ mother observe from the point she arrived?

The jury will soon be trying to imagine a scenario in which Hans’s could murder Nina out of sight of any witness, then dispose of the body in the hours following 3 PM September 3. 

I think the DA may be able to argue that Hans accomplished two things that weekend: (1) He put Nina’s body in the passenger seat of “his” car (a Honda CRX registered to his mother, Mrs. Palmer) and drove to a secluded place, where he temporarily left it hidden.  (2) Then he moved Nina’s car to the place where it was eventually found. (3) He disposed of the body somewhere. (4) He washed his car in order to remove all Nina traces (the corpse might have begun to deteriorate by then). Days later, as police attention on him intensified, Hans removed and disposed of the CRX passenger seat.  Will this Sell?

How long would all that take?  How much “alone” time did Hans have?  It is very hard to conceal a human corpse for more than 12 hours without generating horrendous odors.

Keeping the timeline in mind as a backdrop, let’s review the last three days of testimony.

THREE DAYS

Monday, 12-3

Han’s mother, Beverly Palmer, testified that she returned to her home (having been at the “Burning Man” festival in Nevada) on Tuesday, September 5th.  Hans said nothing about Nina.  On Wednesday the 6th, after she had rested, Hans told her that Nina was missing. “He didn't seem to know anything about it,” she testified.

The Honda CRX (owned by Mom but usually driven by Hans) was missing.

Mrs. Palmer’s favorite car is a Honda hybrid. Hans borrowed her favorite car – sometime around Sept. 6-8  - leaving Mom “stranded, without any car.” Hans refused to reveal where her favorite car had been taken. Apparently Mom rented a car, assuming that Hans’ car (her CRX) wasn’t working. 

On September 10, Hans called Mom from San Leandro, requesting a ride. Ever resourceful, Mrs. Palmer used the occasion to search for her favorite car; and she found the hybrid parked on a side street.  Mom then hid her car from Hans!

The CRX was recovered by police (who were tailing Hans) on September 18.  The passenger seat was missing.  Mom can’t really remember whether she ever noticed the missing seat at any pertinent time because she rarely drove it.

The headline of the day was Mrs. Palmer’s testimony that Nina had left her kids with other caretakers for a month at a time – once with a nanny and once with her own parents.  The defense will argue that Nina was capable of abandoning her children for a full year. The jury, in my opinion, will not buy it.

Tuesday

Mrs. Palmer answered a phone call from Hans about three weeks after Nina “vanished”.  The conversation was wiretapped.  Hans told Mom that his wife was a liar, loose with money, that she was a danger to her children, that she had kicked him once.  After his tirade, Mrs. Palmer repeatedly asked whether she “deserved” what had happened to her and repeatedly Hans avoided agreeing with her.  On cross examination, DuBois got Mom to say that Hans was not – in her opinion – a violent person.

Forensic alert:  The defense has now fully opened the issue of whether the defendant has a propensity for violence.  A door has opened—I wonder if the DA has anything to drive through it.

But the defense did make headway with Mom on the blood issue.  According to her, the post in the front room where traces of blood identified to both Nina and Hans were recovered was bumped by most everyone at sometime.  Moreover, the smudge from which the blood traces were recovered looked the same before she left town for Nevada and after her return.  Nina’s blood traces recovered from a sleeping bag in the CRX could be explained, it was suggested during her cross examination by DuBois, because the couple had shared the bag, and Nina might have experienced a nosebleed.

Forensic Note: Expect additional blood evidence.

Wednesday

Today, the jury heard sympathetic testimony from Nina’s boyfriend, Anthony Zografos, a engineer with a doctorate from UCB who had spent the day with Nina and the kids in Alameda on September 2. He last saw her on Sept. 3, 2006, when he dropped at her home. The same day he got a text message from Nina.  The time was at 12:55 P.M. “Love you lots” her message said.  The jury saw home movies of the couple and Nina’s children. The DA asked  Anthony whether Nina just vanish and abandon her kids: “Absolutely not.”  The jury, in my opinion, does not think so either…

COMMENT

During these three days, a stage is being set for a performance.  In the end it will be Hans himself who pulls this case out or drags it down. 

As additional evidence comes in, keep the timeline in mind.  What happened between the afternoon of September 3 and the time that Mrs. Palmer, having returned the previous day, awoke to learn that her daughter in law was missing? As matters stand, the noose of suspicion had closed slightly but many defendants could still slip through…

JBG

 

 

 

 

 

December 03, 2007

Monday

 MONDAY...

Mrs. Palmer, Hans Reiser's mother, was called by the prosecution today. Both sides got something from her testimony. 

  

I will post a review and analysis Wednesday afternoon covering all three days.

Worry not.  The truth is out there.... 

  OutThere

The Out-Lawyer

JBG


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