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Hans Reiser Guilty of First Degree Murder 1395

Posted by kdawson
from the so-much-for-the-geek-defense dept.
Anonymous Meoward writes "Today Hans Reiser was found guilty of first degree murder in Oakland, California. Quoting Wired: 'In a murder case with no body, no crime scene, no reliable eyewitness and virtually no physical evidence, the prosecution began the trial last November with a daunting task ahead... The turning point in the trial came when Reiser took the stand in his own defense March 3.' Whether he really did it or not, Hans basically just didn't know when to shut up."
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Hans Reiser Guilty of First Degree Murder

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  • by detritus. (46421) on Monday April 28, 2008 @07:41PM (#23231310)

    I say let him sit in prison until his wife reappears alive. Nobody abandons their kids and cuts off contact with all family like that.
    Getting caught with books on murder, evading police surveillance, having a front seat removed from your car, soaked in 3 inches of water?
    This guy is a real piece of work. Saying he's narcissistic is an understatement.

    Acquit him, and he's another OJ Simpson, free of ever being charged again.
  • SHUT THE FUCK UP. Honestly, that is the advice you need. SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP. Don't talk. Don't answer questions. If you must talk, please state the following: 1) "Am I under arrest?" If YES, then say, "I want a lawyer." If NO, get up and leave. If you co-operate and help them out and do them a favor, whatever--they will talk you into taking the blame. They'll have you convinced you did it even if you didn't. PLEASE, SHUT UP.
  • by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Monday April 28, 2008 @07:41PM (#23231320) Homepage

    No kidding. I would really like to see a poll of the jury members, and if they would change their votes if they had been told that Hans's ex-friend (the wife's new dude) had confessed to killing 8 people.

    Some facts are prejudicial.

    Some facts are prejudicial for a very good reason.

    I'd like to see numbers on how that would have changed things.

    Too bad ReiserFS will probably die. I'm going to guess that they won't be giving him his own computer in prison to continue development with. I wonder if someone else will effectively try to step up and take control of the project, or it will just lose all it's momentum (not that it didn't in the last few years anyway).

  • Re:So... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Monday April 28, 2008 @07:42PM (#23231340) Journal

    A typical jury is a group of 12 people hand-picked by the lawyers to be the most easily emotionally manipulated people possible. You were expecting them to come to a conclusion based on logic?

  • by OMNIpotusCOM (1230884) * on Monday April 28, 2008 @07:43PM (#23231344) Homepage Journal
    I'm sorry, but that's ridiculous. Last I knew you had to prove that he planned to kill someone with a first degree murder charge. If you can't prove she's dead, and nobody saw her die, and there's no evidence that she's anywhere other than where he says, you can't convict a person of first degree murder.

    Can you imagine what would happen if this guy was black?
  • by slashqwerty (1099091) on Monday April 28, 2008 @07:50PM (#23231432)
    Yet, no reasonable doubt?

    There was some doubt. Then Hans' insisted on taking the stand. The jury may have considered perhaps Hans took the seat out to go racing or make room for a large purchase. But if that were the case he would have said so on the stand. The same goes for any other evidence. Because Reiser took the stand the jury couldn't conjour up possible explanations. If Reiser didn't present the doubt himself the jury couldn't consider it. Since it was obvious Reiser was lying (he even admitted to it) the jury couldn't believe what he had to say.

  • by TrentC (11023) on Monday April 28, 2008 @07:51PM (#23231452) Homepage
    I'm not a lawyer but here's what I found in a couple of minutes of Googling:

    From FindLaw: http://criminal.findlaw.com/crimes/a-z/murder_first_degree.html [findlaw.com]

    Most states also adhere to a legal concept known as the "felony murder rule," under which a person commits first-degree murder if any death (even an accidental one) results from the commission of certain violent felonies -- usually arson, burglary, kidnapping, rape, and robbery.

    According to Everything2: http://everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1316784 [everything2.com]
    A person who commits, or attempts to commit, a felony can be convicted of murder if someone dies during the commission (or attempt) if:

            * the person has intentionally engaged in the felony
            * the felony is inherently dangerous
            * the death occurs during the commission of the felony
            * the death is independent and collateral to the felony, and
            * the felon (or an accomplice) caused the death.

    The inherently dangerous element is automatically satisfied if the felony is listed in the first-degree murder statute; [emphasis mine] in California, those felonies are arson, rape, carjacking, robbery, burglary, mayhem, kidnapping, train wrecking, sodomy, lewd or lascivious acts involving children, oral copulation, [sexual] penetration by foreign object, and drive-by shootings.


    If Hans Reiser abducted Nina and then killed her, even if it was accidental, then he could be convicted of first-degree murder in California.
  • by the.Ceph (863988) on Monday April 28, 2008 @07:53PM (#23231484)

    Can you imagine what would happen if this guy was black?
    We wouldn't be reading about it on /. and the prosecution would have had an easier time getting the conviction.
  • Re:Sad news... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Digi-John (692918) on Monday April 28, 2008 @07:55PM (#23231502) Journal
    How many people ever used ReiserFS? By all reports (from the few people I've ever known who actually used it) it was a pretty risky move. When ReiserFS screwed your filesystem (as happened to these guys at some point), there weren't really any good tools to try and fix it... and if you emailed Reiser or a mailing list, he'd be a total ass because you DARE mention that his filesystem screwed your data. So yeah, I guess if writing a filesystem that nobody uses and being a dick count as being a good programmer and an important member of the community, you're right.
  • by OMNIpotusCOM (1230884) * on Monday April 28, 2008 @07:55PM (#23231512) Homepage Journal
    In my truck you'll find a copy of the Satanic Bible, 1984, and Catcher in the Rye (Harry Potter too, but that's because I'm reading it to my son). Not only that but there's a fairly large spot of my friend's blood that I can't get out from when he stepped on a nail and it went through his shoe, and the passenger lock has fallen off (almost as if someone was trying to hastily escape from my truck). I keep a sleeping bag and blanket in my truck - it's Iowa, what're you gonna do in a blizzard? I'm a loner with a quirky sense of humor.

    I think we've just proved that I can be convicted of first degree murder if my friend turns up missing.
  • by Wrath0fb0b (302444) on Monday April 28, 2008 @07:56PM (#23231520)

    I have to be absolutely certain that there can't be any other reasonable explanation of what happened. [SNIP] What happened to the good old "we'd rather have ten guilty men run free than put one innocent man in jail"?
    Sorry, those two statements do not compute. The preference for acquitting N guilty men rather than convicting one innocent implies (for finite values of N) that absolute certainty cannot be required. Absolute certainty implies infinite N. There is no possible way to convict anyone (confessions with corroboration aside) certainly without introducing error. The best we can do is attempt to construct a system that is as fair as possible while still rendering decisions in a finite amount of time (justice delayed and so forth) for a finite amount of resource. Clearly we aren't there yet (not by a long shot) but the only way to make progress is to acknowledge that human decision making processes are flawed and work around it. A system that categorically does not convict the innocent is one that does not convict anyone at all.

    For an interesting review of historical views on 'N' (and Blackstone's criteria in general), see http://www.law.ucla.edu/volokh/guilty.htm [ucla.edu].
  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ettlz (639203) on Monday April 28, 2008 @07:57PM (#23231536) Journal

    America truly is the land of opportunities.
    And opportunists.
  • Completely agree.... But you ignore one thing: human psyche. They WILL break you. It might officially not be torture, but it's close enough to break anyone who is untrained.
  • by Ethan Allison (904983) <slashdot@neonstream.us> on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:01PM (#23231586) Homepage
    Not if you know when to shut up.
  • by LiENUS (207736) <slashdot@vetmana ... com minus distro> on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:03PM (#23231620) Homepage

    psychology is a complete pseudoscience - analysis of someone's behaviour never passes the reasonable doubt threashold.
    The first part is flat out wrong. Yes there is a lot in psychology that is guessing. But they are guesses that match real world behavior. But to call it a complete pseudoscience is flat out wrong.

    The second part is wrong as well. It quite often passes the reasonable doubt thresh hold. It shouldn't but it does.
  • Re:Sad news... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jeffrey Baker (6191) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:06PM (#23231662)
    Actually he's a shitty programmer and a megalomaniac. Anybody who had to endure his prolonged self-aggrandizement at the expense of the readers of the linux-kernel mailing list know that he was long on self-esteem and short on delivery. All that ever came out of his years of talking about how awesom he is were four versions of an unreliable filesystem with bad performance.
  • by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75&yahoo,com> on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:08PM (#23231690)
    No evidence? No body? No murder weapon? Who cares! The prosecutor used Power Point in his closing.. The defendant is "weird".

    Did you bother to RTFA? There was plenty of evidence. A body is not required to arrest and convict somebody of murder. Otherwise all anybody would have to do would be to cremate the body and poof! No crime!

    The article gives just a couple of examples, but they're obviously examples of many. The guy spent 11 full days on the stand. The one pretty incriminating example of evidence cited in the article is the fact that he removed the passenger seat of his car just after his wife's disappearance, then hosed down the interior and left an inch of standing water on the floor boards. Now, you tell me why any average person has reason to do that. I can tell you that in 20 years of car ownership and six different cars, I have never once taken the passenger seat out of my car, thrown it away and then hosed down the interior, and I don't know anyone else who has either. His explanation was that he liked to sleep in the car and wanted the extra room. Does this sound plausible to you?

    So, let's just look at this *one* piece of evidence. Guy's wife disappears. He then immediately removes the seat from his car, which is never seen again, and he hoses down the interior of the car. That doesn't paint a picture for you? Now, let's say you ask the guy why he did that and he gives you a laughably ridiculous explanation. And let's say this goes on for 11 days as the prosecution asks him to explain every other piece of evidence, and his explanations are no less ridiculous in each case.

    The standard for guilt or innocence is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. That doesn't mean *any* doubt, and that's the mistake people often make. It's *reasonable* doubt. Is it reasonable to assume he was telling the truth about that car seat? Would any reasonable person do what he did with that car seat? And if all his other explanations about the evidence presented were similar, is it reasonable to assume he was telling the truth about anything?
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:09PM (#23231696) Homepage
    Yes, exactly, the problem was that Reiser eliminated doubt. All that was left was the simple question: Was his testimony credible? Well, based solely on the few snippets in the article, it doesn't sound credible at all. Sitting through 11 days of that, and I can see being completely convinced he was lying his ass off. And that's being me, knowing full well how weird, paranoid, and asocial geeks can be.

    The thing is, that while there was only circumstantial evidence, there was rather a lot of it. That amount of evidence is used to convict people plenty often. You don't have to have a body, a gun with fingerprints on it, and ballistics that match the bullet in the body. "Circumstantial" blood stains require either a lot of good explaining, or a lot of shutting up and leaving room for the "reasonable doubt" that your lawyer will certainly argue for. When you try to explain it away, and your explanations sound hollow, then that only leaves the interpretation that you are lying because the circumstantial evidence is real evidence.

    There's a good lesson here: Listen to your lawyer. If your lawyer says it would be a bad idea for you to testify, it's probably because they know what they are talking about. It's very much a geek thing to want to address every point made by your opponent directly, to leave nothing left unaccounted for. Except that when your rebuttals are weak, you can actually have the opposite effect. Let your lawyer figure out when that is appropriate.
  • by gd23ka (324741) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:10PM (#23231722) Homepage
    I'll second that. I wish I could mod your post up all the way to +10 and change the font color to yellow on black.

    What you describe is entirely correct. When an officer starts asking you questions if you know what's good for you UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ANSWER any questions or volunteer any information. Instead and again like you said: Ask "Officer am I under arrest?". If you're not then leave. If you are, tell them "Officer I am invoking my right to remain silent". They will threaten that remaining silent only makes things worse. In many cases they will threaten with arrest if you remain silent or they will offer to help you if you admit to the charge. A POLICE OFFICER HAS NO INFLUENCE ON CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS OTHER AS A WITNESS. A police officer can not reduce your charges, a police officer can NOT drop charges. But... they are permitted to lie to you in order to obtain incriminatory information. They are permitted to offer false legal advice if it serves the prosecution(!).

    You can expect some very tense moments with officers when you deny them permission to search your vehicle or your property or if you remain silent. I have been there. Be prepared for pressure but know that in the end it's better to get intense with the Officer than with your future cell mates (not that I have been there ;-) )
  • by Mike Buddha (10734) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:10PM (#23231724)

    I think we've just proved that I can be convicted of first degree murder if my friend turns up missing.
    Well, actually, I'm pretty sure you'd have to kill him first. And you'd have to rip out one of the seats of your truck, hose down the inside of the truck leaving an inch of water, and claim that you removed the seat in order to sleep in the car, in the inch of water. And they'd have to find your friends blood in your house as well. And your friend would have had to disappear with you as the last person to see him alive. And you'd have to testify in your own defense, and do a piss poor job of convincing the jury that you're telling the truth.

    Yeah that'd do it, genius.
  • by icebike (68054) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:18PM (#23231828)
    > If you can't prove she's dead, and nobody saw her
    > die, and there's no evidence that she's anywhere
    > other than where he says, you can't convict a
    > person of first degree murder.

    Wrong. They just did.

    Are your points, grounds for appeal? Certainly.

    But you can most certainly convict without a body, because to prohibit such convictions merely rewards those criminals better at disposing of bodies.
  • by digital photo (635872) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:20PM (#23231856) Homepage Journal
    I've been reading through several of the coverage pages and wow...

    You'd think that given all of the evidence was so circumstantial, that he'd just keep his mouth shut or say as little as possible, but instead, he just keeps digging himself a deeper and deeper hole.

    Advice for hyperactive folks who lack social skills who are accused of a crime not committed:

    1) take a chill pill. no, really, chill. now is NOT the time to expound on the intricacies of your one and only view of the world.

    2) you've got a lawyer. Use the lawyer as a filter. If you don't like the lawyer, get another one. If you don't know how, find someone who can help you manage stuff. this is another example of where you really shouldn't try to learn how to do it yourself, just because you can.

    3) you don't "argue" with judges. You argue with other lawyers. Arguing with a judge is... well, it's just not wise.

    I would have said that the lawyer was incompetent, but it sounds like the lawyer got fed up with his client arguing with him. Who's the lawyer and who's the guy being accused of 1st degree murder? Right. Either listen to the lawyer or get one you can work with.

    He had a good case where the defense stood on fairly firm ground. Then, he opened his mouth and tried to explain things according to his world view, to the point where he could easily be painted as someone who was just not reliable.

    There's alot to take away from this case. And unfortunately, one of those things is that "just being you", or "just being an unsociable geek" is not a valid defense.

    Hopefully, he can appeal and perhaps prove his innocence there.

  • by solraith (1203394) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:22PM (#23231880)

    Now that he has been found guilty, perhaps you should explain why you think he is innocent?
    People are innocent until proven guilty. Hans was never proven guilty, therefore he is innocent.
  • by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:22PM (#23231890) Homepage Journal
    "oj is guilty" according to whites is to "oj is guilty" according to blacks

    as

    "reiser is guilty" according to average joes is to "reiser is guilty" according to _____

    hint: rhymes with "gerds" or "neeks"

    that was a joke, but seriously, this case reveals sociology going on here. if reiser didn't program a file system, not only would no one here care, but most everyone protesting his conviction here would probably agree with it

    what does writing a file system have to do with first degree murder? absolutely nothing

    except according to all the douchebags here protesting this murderer's innocence here on slashdot

    prejudice according to clique. tribalism. its a powerful motivator. just look at all the comments here grandstanding on this murderer's innocence. as if they would know better than a jury

    you don't

    you present two sides of a case to a jury of your peers. they decide. there is no better of arbiter of justice. don't like the verdict. why do you think you know better?

    you don't

    deal with it. move on. the guy is murdering asshole. according to a jury. good enough for me. why isn't good enough for you?
  • by urcreepyneighbor (1171755) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:24PM (#23231934)

    The defendant is "weird".
    Oh shit!
  • by OMNIpotusCOM (1230884) * on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:24PM (#23231940) Homepage Journal

    But you can most certainly convict without a body, because to prohibit such convictions merely rewards those criminals better at disposing of bodies.

    Sure... either that or you make it easier to convict innocent people. You say "potato", I say "beyond a reasonable doubt."

  • by Angst Badger (8636) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:25PM (#23231948)
    Amen. Not talking to the police is the first -- and almost only -- rule in dealing with the police unless you are reporting a crime of which you are the victim. Just don't do it. In general, the most you are required to do is to confirm your identity, and you can do that by handing the arresting officer your license. They may feed you a line of shit about your refusal to talk being suspicious. Ignore it. If it comes up at trial, your attorney will rightly dismiss it as an example of someone simply following sound legal advice. Keep your mouth closed even if you are as innocent as the driven snow. If you shut the fuck up and let your attorney do the talking, the case might not even make it to trial. Concocting amateur legal theories is fun on Slashdot, but it is bizarre, self-destructive behavior in real life.

    Let this case also stand as an object lesson in that other important rule: Once your attorney is there to do the talking, take his or her advice. If you are, oh, let's say an expert computer scientist with an advanced understanding of filesystem design, you wouldn't invite some random schmoe from the street to head your development team. That would be stupid. The converse applies: you are the random schmoe, so let the person with the legal degrees and an advanced understanding of criminal trials make the legal decisions.

    Oh, and another thing: don't murder your estranged wife. Murder your uncle, your neighbor, or your boss if you absolutely must kill somebody. And then paint "PRIME SUSPECT" in three-foot-high red letters on your house. That is still an order of magnitude less suspicious than having your fucking wife go missing during the middle of an acrimonious custody dispute.

    Now if you'll pardon me, the sudden revelation that any clueless jackhole can build a filesystem has me itching to fire up the ol' compiler. ;)
  • by penix1 (722987) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:38PM (#23232124) Homepage
    The problem is, you can't have your cake and eat it too. Once you take the stand in your own defense, the prosecution has a right to cross examine you. You can't just be examined by your defense attorney in a positive light and not give the prosecution the chance to dim that light. You can't start claiming the fifth once you are up there and said your side.

    In this case, his attorney was right in advising Hans not to take the stand. Better to have people think you are an idiot than to open your mouth and remove all doubt!
  • by Dogun (7502) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:39PM (#23232146) Homepage
    I can remember three or four shipping codes I typed 4 years ago.
    I can't tell you what I had for dinner last night.
    I can recall in entirety my three most recent games of "I'm going on a picnic, and I'm bringing" (the one where each person adds an item in alphabetical order to a list).

    People's memories are extremely wacky.
  • by kithrup (778358) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:40PM (#23232166)

    His excuse for the seat -- which struck me as plausible -- was that he was forced to sleep in his car. What with him being near broke, and being told he couldn't stay in his mother's house.

    Is it what I'd do? No. But I can see myself coming to the decision that it was a legitimate choice.

    Everything he did that was "suspicious" falls into that category -- not what I'd do, but I can understand the logic behind it.

    But then, like Hans, I'm weird. Geeky and nerdy, even.

  • Re:Sad news... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lambent (234167) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:49PM (#23232290)
    I had that exact experience. ReiserFS is very unstable; any benefits that it could possibly have in terms of speed are far outweighed by the inherent danger to your files. I know that, yes, there may be some circumstances where someone would be willing to make that tradeoff. However, after seeing a ResierFS partition truly crash and burn, I would never consider using it in either a personal or professional application. And I would seriously laugh at anyone who really couldn't think of a better alternative.

    The arrogant and abusive response thing is actually common to a lot of open source communities; Reiser wasn't the only one. I think it's more common (and more violent) where a criticism on the product could be interpreted as a personal attack on the author(s) (for instance, where one main author is largely responsible for the project or its main design), but it does happen quite a lot.

    Oh, and the nagware/begware messages on all the Reiser package utilities were the most annoying things I've ever seen. Almost forgot about those.
  • Re:So... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by darkmeridian (119044) <william.chuang@gm a i l . com> on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:59PM (#23232418) Homepage
    Whether or not Sturgeon killed anyone is irrelevant. He admitted to killing eight people and that seriously calls his judgment, credibility, and sanity into question. Sturgeon wasn't called as a witness was because the judge already excluded his admission of eight murders. The prosecution would never call a prime suspect and the defense wouldn't do so if they can't peg him as a psycho because Sturgeon hates Reiser and would do anything to get him in jail.

  • Re:Down here... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mabhatter654 (561290) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:04PM (#23232454)
    they found non-trivial amounts of her blood in his car... they haven't needed a body for 20 years.
  • by avdp (22065) * on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:04PM (#23232466)
    And I thought the lesson was "don't kill people"... Silly me...
  • by mrbluze (1034940) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:05PM (#23232476) Journal

    Sad thing is, he must have made so little money from his programming that he couldn't afford to have someone else do the stupid job for him. That is, if he DID do it.

    The US has a quarter of the world's prisoners but has less than 5% of the world's population. That must mean that the US has caught all the criminals and the rest of us are just going around letting the guilty free, right? No chance there might be a few false positives in that one, right?

  • by arth1 (260657) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:22PM (#23232658) Homepage Journal

    His excuse for the seat -- which struck me as plausible -- was that he was forced to sleep in his car. What with him being near broke, and being told he couldn't stay in his mother's house.

    Is it what I'd do? No. But I can see myself coming to the decision that it was a legitimate choice.

    You've likely never slept in a car, then. I have, plenty of times. And I'd much rather sleep in the passenger seat than remove it and sleep on a hard bumpy floorboard with rails and bolts sticking out of it. Especially if I were tall, because if I slept on the floor, the back seat would get in the way, whereas the front seat back extends over the back seat and thus gives you more room.
    So no, that claim is not credible at all. Especially when combined with a refusal to tell where you disposed of the seat, and hosing down the floor mats.

    (Of course, the best car to sleep (or fsck) in were the old Ramblers, where you folded down the front couch, and it lined up with the rear seat to become a double bed.)
  • by prockcore (543967) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:24PM (#23232672)

    In my mind there is reasonable doubt about the case.


    That's because you aren't on the jury and didn't actually sit through the full trial.

    Neither did I, which is why I won't say whether or not he's guilty.. I (and you) don't have all the facts.
  • by vajaradakini (1209944) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:29PM (#23232722)
    The US also has rather draconian drug laws, which probably explain a lot of the prison population. Rapists and murders tend to get out easy compared to some kid caught with dope.

    That doesn't mean that some of the people there are wrongly convicted, although if person A didn't kill person B then that must mean that somewhere out there, there's a person C who did kill him.
  • by icebike (68054) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:30PM (#23232734)
    > I won't say whether or not he's guilty.

    You don't have to. The jury did. Which means he is guilty by definition.

    It has yet to be proved that he did kill her. Never the less, he is guilty.

    Guilt is a legal finding. Not always a factual finding.
  • Amen.Not talking to the police is the first -- and almost only -- rule in dealing with the police unless you are reporting a crime of which you are the victim. Just don't do it.

    But one must be careful even there. Alan Turing reported a robbery to the police, and he ended up confessing that the thief was his homosexual lover. Why didn't Hans learn from this?

  • Re:Down here... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:00PM (#23233064) Homepage
    Not quite -- At the most basic level, Habeas Corpus is the principle that the government must bring the accused to a public court and publicly let him know what the charges are. This is the whole problem with Guantanamo -- we never get to see the defendant (was he tortured? is he alive?) and nobody gets to hear the charges, not even the accused. Habeas was developed in England before the US even became a nation to prevent Government abuse. Looks like we're regressing.
  • by rudy_wayne (414635) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:05PM (#23233108)

    what proved he was guilty (to the jury) was getting up on the stand and offering such patently ludicrous explanations for his suspicious behaviors that the jury decided he was lying, from which the thought naturally follows "if he didn't do it, then why is he lying?" He talked himself into jail.


    Hans Reiser isn't a socially maladjusted geek who's just "weird" and "different" from everyone else. He's an arrogant asshole who thinks he's smarter than everyone else and he can't believe that anyone would ever question his explanation for his behavior.
  • by Toonol (1057698) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:14PM (#23233208)
    ...not with the verdict, necessarily. The jury heard more evidence in more detail then I did, and more than any of you did.

    I'm disappointed in the majority of slashdotters who are are convinced he's innocent. Do you realize that is really stupid? Why is a group of people who are so rational about technology, say, or science, willing to believe something they just can flat out not know?

    He might have been guilty, he might have been innocent. The devil lies in the details, which the jury knows better than you.

    Obviously it's out of some feeling of kinship with the guy, but, you know, that is a really poor reason. I swear; the reasoning here is about on par with somebody convinced that vaccinations cause autism.
  • by Stamen (745223) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:23PM (#23233302)
    People are lazy. People are only patriotic when it comes to buying a $1 sticker and sticking it to their car. People think of themselves, only, even when they appear to be thinking of someone else, usually it is because it benefits themselves in some way. People are animals in fancy cloths, 3 foodless days away from running around in packs tearing apart anything that looks edible.

    Oh, and water is wet.
  • by PCM2 (4486) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:42PM (#23233476) Homepage

    Agreed, seems to me though that most lawyers would kick us pretty quickly.
    Young, unmarried, middle-class males often get kicked pretty quickly. Don't take it personally. You're just statistically less likely to be sympathetic, either to the defendant or to the victim of the alleged crime.

    Look at the issues in the Hans Reiser case: Marriage. Money. Economic disparity between the accused and the alleged victim. Breakdown of an abusive relationship. Comfortable, middle-class, single male may just not have a lot of empathy for any of these situations.

    Or, to put it another way: Who would you want sitting on your jury? Hans Reiser?
  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:59PM (#23233630)
    For a lot of reasons, people will confess to crimes they didn't commit. There are mountains of literature on it so you can do research as to theories why and conditions that cause it and such. Suffice to say it happens. So the courts don't just take any random confession at face value. You'll notice that Sturgeon isn't in prison. If you confess to 8 murders, and the court believes you, you'd better believe you are going to be behind bars. That he isn't says that they don't find his confessions to be at all credible.

    Now this is important, because otherwise, it would create a "Get out of murder free" situation more or less. As an example:

    Suppose you and I conspire together. You are going to murder someone, but I agree that if you get caught I'll confess to it at your trial. This would of course create reasonable doubt for you. However, I'll make sure that there is plenty of evidence showing I didn't do it (for example be on camera somewhere at the time of the murder) so when they bring me to trial, I get off. Bingo, you got away with murder.

    This isn't even to mention the problem of people with mental problems who confess to things they didn't do for any number of reasons.

    A good judge isn't going to allow evidence, on either side, that is likely false. They also aren't going to allow in evidence that is highly prejudicial if it isn't relevant to the case, even if it is true. For example on the prosecution side prior bad acts are limited. They can be admitted to evidence if they relate to the case, for example if someone is accused of robbery and he has 5 robbery convictions, well that's relevant because it establishes a pattern of behaviour. However if you were on trial for tax evasion, they couldn't get in a domestic violence conviction, since all that would do is prejudice the jury and it isn't relevant.
  • by Alpha830RulZ (939527) on Monday April 28, 2008 @11:04PM (#23233678)
    Having sat for jury duty a few times, and being rejected every time, I can tell you that the -last- thing a lawyer wants on a jury is somebody with critical thinking skills.
  • by twistedcubic (577194) on Monday April 28, 2008 @11:35PM (#23233940)

    The argument relies on Russia being a lawless place where a person of international interest can simply disappear. That may be true to some degree, but she has to *remain* disappeared for *life*...
    Not hard to do if nobody is looking for you.
  • by denison (735014) on Monday April 28, 2008 @11:43PM (#23233996)
    It's quite simple ... it can cost you a great deal of money to sit on a jury.

    The last time I was chosen to sit on a jury panel I was self-employed and my wife was staying home with our two young children. The trial was expected to last twenty days. That is a lot of income to forego. Fortunately, I was challenged by one of the defence attorneys and was excused.

  • by khallow (566160) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @12:01AM (#23234138)
    Part of the juror's duty is to evaluate the demeanor of the defendant both on the witness stand and off. If the defendant uses evasive language in testifying on what they did and saw, then that can be used as evidence. It isn't not in itself enough to damn a person beyond a reasonable doubt, but Reiser wasn't testifying about the weather, but what he was doing at a critical time. He had months to recollect this. In a high profile case without a body and (from what I hear) a competent legal defense, the police have to provide more than vague suspicions and a guilty looking defendant.
  • by arth1 (260657) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @12:59AM (#23234564) Homepage Journal
    Having confessed to eight murders doesn't automatically make one a mass murderer, just like having denied murdering someone doesn't automatically make one innocent of murder.

    FWIW, the police didn't take Mr. Sturgeon's confessions seriously enough to press charges. That should tell you something.
  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @03:33AM (#23235384)
    And zealot mentality isn't necessary logical. To them, a major OSS figure being convicted of murder is a blow to OSS. Thus it is a bad thing and they don't want to believe it's real.

    I mean look at the crap with the OLPC. When it was all OSS, all the time, the zealots had nothing but praise. They talked about how great it was not because of the software, but because of how it would help children and bridge the technology gap and such. Now they are hating on it, even though it still promises the same fundamental world-changing things, it isn't within their dogma anymore so they hate it.

    It's the same sort of thing as religious zealotry. You can be a zealot about ideals other than a religion, but it leads to the same kind of attitude and though process. When something doesn't fit in your beliefs, you deny it and explain it away.
  • by edb (87448) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @03:47AM (#23235450)
    I've been called for jury duty more than 30 times over the past 20 years in the San Francisco area (the same region as the Reiser trial, but not the same court). I've never once actually served on a jury. Each and every time, after sitting and waiting for possibly hours or days, when my turn finally came I was dismissed by either one side or the other as soon as they learned through questioning that I:
    • - went to college, and
    • - have multiple Master's degrees, and
    • - am an engineer, and
    • - own and run my own successful business
    I can only conclude that both sides prefer to exclude jurors who can think, who evaluate the evidence presented and are not swayed by emotional arguments beyond the evidence itself. Both sides (prosecution and defense) seem to want jurors who can be hoodwinked into believing the out-of-band implications of a theatrical presentation.
  • by jjohnson (62583) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @10:29AM (#23237776) Homepage

    I'm at a total loss to how this could have been withheld from the jury.

    Look at it this way: You're on trial for murder. I tell the police that I've killed eight people, though I can't demonstrate that they're actually dead or that I actually killed them. Your jury hears about it, says "no, the serial killer obviously did it." You're acquitted. There's no evidence to charge me, so I go free, too. We toast our cleverness over daquiries in the Bahamas.

    The police investigated Sturgeon's claims and concluded he was crazy and attention-seeking (a not unknown phenomenon to police). Given that, it's entirely proper that the jury didn't hear about it.

    I'm pretty confident that the police really did investigate his claims, too. If I could trade up from a murderer to a serial killer, I'd go for it.

  • by jcr (53032) <[jcr] [at] [mac.com]> on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @11:05AM (#23238242) Journal
    However, based on the evidence presented in court, they found that there was reasonable doubt he was guilty, and thus let him walk.

    That's their duty. It's not to decide if someone's probably guilty, it's to decide whether the prosecution proved their case. The reason for this is that it's a far greater injustice to convict an innocent person than to let a guilty one go free.

    -jcr
  • by electrictroy (912290) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @11:35AM (#23238834)
    I think the real flaw with this man is what the Judge said: "You are rude. You are arrogant. There are not enough words in the English language to describe the way you are."

    i.e. Typical geek who thinks he's smarter or better than the average person on the street. In this case he thought he was smart enough (and everyone else dumb enough) to explain away a killing.

    It didn't work.

  • by uncreativeslashnick (1130315) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @11:38AM (#23238888)
    I am an attorney. I try jury cases, civil litigation these days, but I worked for a short stint as a prosecutor. I have selected many jurors.

    I can tell you first off that most attorneys do NOT want engineers on their juries. The reason is not at all that we don't want critical thinkers. Rather, it's because most engineers are a lot more like Hans Reiser than they would like to admit. Engineers have a tendency to glorify logic to the point that they ignore common sense. The law, and particularly criminal law, is not a science. No one can conclusively proove that a person committed a crime in the same way that a mathematician can prove his theorums. Engineers also tend to be arrogant, and tend to believe that they know more than everyone else about everything. I ought to know, my brother is one. And so the fear is that engineers will have a marked tendency to consider the evidence in an unfair way, to ignore what the lawyers say about the evidence, and to bully everyone else in the jury room into a point of view that does not give due credit to all of the circumstances and the evidence.

    Take Reiser's case. The man is so obviously guilty it reeks. An Engineer might say, well they haven't even proved that she's dead. But somehow we are supposed to believe that she left a car full of groveries on the side of the road, failed to show up to her best friend's house, and left her kids in the hands of a man that she hates so that she could fly away to Russia? That's ridiculous. A lawyer would say that you don't have to prove something as absolutely true, but only beyond a *reasonable* doubt. It isn't reasonable to believe that this woman left her car, her groceries, her friends, and her kids to fly off to Russia, where nobody has heard from her since.

    Think about it, if the prosecution had to have a body every time they tried someone for murder, than any murderer who found a good enough hiding spot for the body would get off. That may be scientifically sound, but it's not justice.

    Now take the fact that they found Nina's blood in Reiser's house, and on his sleeping bag. He removed his car seat from his car, and flooded the compartment to try to wash it, and left an inch of water in there. Then he claims he was sleeping in his car. Is there any other reasonable explanation than that this car was used to transport a body? Sure, you can come up with other explanations, but none of them are *reasonable* The books on murder, the suspicious behavior, etc., are just icing on the cake.

    But the reality is that a good attorney might have had a chance to get Reiser off, despite his glaring guilt. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" is a damn high burden to meet, and often times a good lawyer can inject enough uncertainty into a case to keep the jury from reaching that threshhold. But when Reiser took the stand, he basically removed all chance of that happening. He apparently gave some completely ridiculous explanations to some very important questions, like why in gods name would anyone use a hose to wash out their car and then leave an inch of standing water in there, when that is where they sleep. So basically, Reiser made what could have been reasonable doubts sound completely unreasonable. And that is why he was convicted, and not because of his arrogance or disdain towards humanity (although I'm sure that didn't help him either).

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