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The Courts News

Hans Reiser Gets Sentence of 15-To-Life 553

Posted by Soulskill
from the bye-now dept.
mallumax writes "Hans Reiser was today handed a prison sentence of 15-to-life for murdering his wife. Earlier this year, he pleaded guilty and led police to his wife's body. His jury trial concluded in April with Reiser's first-degree murder conviction. That carries a 25-to-life term, but the authorities, in a backroom deal, later offered him 15-to-life if he produced his wife's body and waived any rights to appeal his conviction." Several other readers contributed coverage at SFGate.
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Hans Reiser Gets Sentence of 15-To-Life

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  • by jerkychew (80913) on Saturday August 30, 2008 @12:17AM (#24806285) Homepage

    I understand that it was probably in everyone's best interest to produce Nina's body, but I can't help but feel that Hans was essentially rewarded for hiding it so well. His sentence was reduced from 25-to-live to 15-to-life just for leading police to where he buried her.

    Still, glad to see this soap opera is over.

  • by skogs (628589) on Saturday August 30, 2008 @12:22AM (#24806345) Journal
    Most interesting to the geek community is this: What are the terms of his imprisonment? 1) Will he have fairly regular internet access? 2) Will he be allowed to type...perhaps code some? 3) Inmates are regularly allowed to read all they want and take skills courses and learn new crafts...does this extend to a geek's leanings? With one's wife already gone...one would have a great deal of peace coding...especially if all your meals were provided at regular times and you were guaranteed a fairly clean set of sheets to sleep on. While I do not advocate killing anybody...it does have advantages if you were a hardcore geek. It would be like college, except without all that silly dating and learning. Just sit in your new 'dorm' room and code.
  • Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Saturday August 30, 2008 @12:23AM (#24806357) Homepage Journal

    I just don't know what to say about this. It's sad, upsetting, and yet just at the same time. On one hand I'm happy (can that even be the right word?) to see that he repented. On the other hand, I'm frightened by the thought that he killed her over a flippant remark about taking the kids to the doctor. On one hand it's also good that he didn't get off with a 3 year sentence, yet you can't help but feel for the fact that his own arrogance got him into this trouble.

    Worst of all, events like this always create ugly questions in one's mind. e.g. It's a natural reaction to assume that murders are people who would stand out as a societal misfit. Someone who you would never place trust in or respect. Yet here we have an instance of someone that I had previously respected and was even considering contacting (partly because of several pushes from acquaintances) to work out new possible uses for Reiser's filesystem.

    That's a very unsettling thought. If we cannot trust even the basic morality of people who have worked hard for their measures of respect in today's global community, who can we trust?

    The whole thing is just... sad.

  • by eln (21727) on Saturday August 30, 2008 @12:26AM (#24806377) Homepage

    I don't think reasonable doubt enters into it in this case. Clearly, if he can lead you to the body, he probably had something to do with the murder. The reason he got a reduced sentence is for cooperating with authorities after the fact to produce the body, thus giving her relatives some measure of closure. Plus, the agreement to not seek appeals will end up saving the legal system (and thus taxpayers) some money.

    Whether or not cooperating after you've already been found guilty is worthy of a reduced sentence is open for debate, but the idea that reasonable doubt as to his guilt somehow plays into the sentence is not really accurate at this juncture.

  • by VoidEngineer (633446) on Saturday August 30, 2008 @12:28AM (#24806395)
    I was thinking something along the same lines. 15 years of dedicated time to work on a project might result in a hell of a product. If he gets access to a laptop and plans it out carefully, in 15 years time he could walk out of prison and have jobs waiting for him. Hell, somebody as smart as Reiser could probably start up a business from inside jail.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 30, 2008 @12:28AM (#24806397)

    He could be lying about it, for example to cover up for someone else, who told him afterwards where the body was hidden. I'm not saying it's likely, but certainly it is possible. Mathematics concerns things which are KNOWN to be true, based on certain initial facts and rules of inference. "mathematical certainty" is not just saying "it's really, really likely", it is saying "it is true". There is no "beyond all reasonable doubt" in mathematics!

  • by WalksOnDirt (704461) on Saturday August 30, 2008 @02:03AM (#24807047)

    The down side of this is that it sets up a system where people who are wrongly convicted end up getting harsher sentences than those who are guilty.

  • by Z00L00K (682162) on Saturday August 30, 2008 @02:30AM (#24807263) Homepage

    If he hadn't been able to produce the body of his wife then there could have been some uncertainty of his guilt. But since he did he must have been guilty, at least enough guilty for imprisonment.

    If the evidence in itself was enough or not - it's another question but the court decided it was.

    So in this case we should be able to call this a closed case. What we then think of the legal system is a different issue.

  • by TapeCutter (624760) * on Saturday August 30, 2008 @03:20AM (#24807611) Journal
    Justice or revenge?

    A quote from the England's last hangman [wikipedia.org] who executed more people than any other executioner in English history....

    "I have come to the conclusion that executions solve nothing, and are only an antiquated relic of a primitive desire for revenge which takes the easy way and hands over the responsibility for revenge to other people...The trouble with the death penalty has always been that nobody wanted it for everybody, but everybody differed about who should get off."

    Sure I want people who commit what I think are particularly vile crimes dead but I don't think I have the right to kill, let alone someone else taking revenge on my behalf. Justice is having the perpetrator make amends either to their victim, their family or society, somethings just can't be undone so the best you get is useful work..
  • by Pantero Blanco (792776) on Saturday August 30, 2008 @03:36AM (#24807749)

    Oh, she tried to kill him first? Otherwise, her behavior is irrelevant.

    No, it isn't irrelevant, not even in the courts.

    This was the original statement the GP post made:

    Remember kids, murdering the woman you promised to love and cherish and who gave you two children is EVIL.

    She was going to take the kids, and she'd already gotten them Russian citizenship. He probably wasn't going to see them again until they were grown. People have breaking points. If someone pushes the right buttons enough times, they can generally be driven to kill regardless of whether their lives are threatened. The legal system takes this into account when deciding how to charge someone, and how to sentence them if they are convicted.

    If he had killed her for no reason, he would be facing life in prison right now. If he hadn't rejected the initial manslaughter offer, he'd only be facing three years, because he was provoked, enraged, and did not premeditate the murder. Seriously.

  • by fbjon (692006) on Saturday August 30, 2008 @04:09AM (#24807973) Homepage Journal
    I didn't realise the goal is maximum sentence or revenge, rather than reasonable justice. In any case, 15 years is plenty of time for one murder, at least in this case and circumstances, IMHO.
  • Barbaric (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jopet (538074) on Saturday August 30, 2008 @04:32AM (#24808095) Journal

    luckily there are countries where this kind of barbarism is not done anymore. It is not helping to defeat violence in a society if the state itself is conducting violence and killings in the name of revenge.
    How about some extra torture before killing the delinquent?

    I wonder if the US will ever get out of the dark ages and ban the death penalty or if their citizens will go on to demand that this barbaric ritual of revenge can be carried out so that their low instincts can be satisfied.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 30, 2008 @04:40AM (#24808113)

    He's probably guilty, but I don't like the system of offering people lower sentences for "cooperating".

    If all evidence points against you, even if you're innocent, you're likely to confess to get a lower sentence. IMO, there is ABSOLUTELY NO DIFFERENCE to the inquisition, where people would confess having sex with the devil in order to get off with less (in that case only an execution, instead of days of torture followed by execution.)

  • Re:Finally the End (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 30, 2008 @05:28AM (#24808321)

    everything else in your post was pretty true and insightful; further, I don't wish him any more ill than I guess that Hans will already get, but this:

    > The Linux community lost a dedicated developer of innovative free software.

    Just isn't true. Reiser was a drag and a pain for the Linux developers. His record with ReiserFS3; that he got it into the kernel and then stopped maintaining it; was bad not only for the developers left to look after his mess, but also for the users who's data got eaten. His refusal to break out ReiserFS functionality into chunks where it could be shared with other filesystems was really dangerous. I'm not sure what "Linux Community" means, but I can't see many definitions of "community" where he could be seen as a manor benefit.

  • by Timosch (1212482) on Saturday August 30, 2008 @06:16AM (#24808523)
    "I didn't realise the goal is maximum sentence or revenge, rather than resonable justice."
    Yeah, but what is justice? Or, to be more precise, why do we punish people?
    The possibilities are:
    a) Vengeance
    b) Deterrence for the general public
    c) Deterrence for the individual
    All of these are part of the principle of justice. As a matter of fact, justice is based on equality. If I kill someone, I will be punished for it, for I violated his rights and thus my rights shall be restricted as well (in that case, freedom of travel or whatever you call the right to walk around in freedom).
    So, next thing: Is 15 years too much for one murder?
    I absolutely disagree. Murder - being at least one of the most serious (if not the most) felonies - should be punished with the hardest penalty the jurisdiction of the state/country/authority/whatever has to offer. For instance, in Germany, where I come from, the punishment for murder (here being only the voluntary killing of a person with ruthlessness and malicious intent) is generally life imprisonment (meaning at least 15 years, in some cases at least 21).
    Exceptions can be made if there were some special circumstances (not heat of the moment, as that is a different crime). But I cannot really see why this would be appropriate here.
    So, from my point of view, the sentence is justifiable (morally, as I am not an [American] lawyer).
  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Saturday August 30, 2008 @07:28AM (#24808821)

    Hans Reiser's carelessness with his wife's murder is typical of his carelessness with his file system design: he came up with complex arrangement to reduce his perceived risk, and focused on it to the point where all else was ignored and became destructive. Then he tried to deny that it was his fault, with contrived and obviously false claims of innocence based on how clever he was rather than the actual timelines and evidence.

    Given the poor history of ReiserFS and its tendency to zero files, to lie about the availablility of files in failing hardware, or to destroy itself if you actually run the repair tools on it, why would you want him to continue to work on it?

  • by The Only Druid (587299) on Saturday August 30, 2008 @08:40AM (#24809227)
    It may not be different in your opinion, but that doesn't mean you're right.

    In the American justice system, you have no reason to confess if there is not sufficient evidence of your guilt. The jury/judge system errs tremendously on the side of the defendant, for this precise reason. It is extremely difficult, despite what fiction might tell you, to muster enough false evidence to convince a jury or judge to convict a person when that person is innocent. That isn't to say it doesn't happen, but those are the extreme exceptions to the rule of a fair criminal system.

    In fact, your premise fails for one simple reason: prosecutors accept deals (i.e. confessions or plea bargains) only where the cost of full prosecution (including risk of acquittal) isn't worth the benefit (i.e. full conviction). If all the evidence points against you, they're probably going to win anyway, and will be reluctant to deal with you anyway.

    If you're innocent, keep your plea, and raise a defense. Appeal if you're convicted. It works constantly. Only people who refuse to work within the system consistently have a problem in this manner.

    Don't get me wrong, as I said, unfortunately some innocents inevitably get convicted due to bad juries and judges, and even sometimes bad prosecutors, but the system is built around getting those people out.
  • by the same logic, (Score:1, Interesting)

    by toby (759) * on Saturday August 30, 2008 @08:53AM (#24809295) Homepage Journal

    Windows is for thieves and liars.

    If you want to talk about criminality: Gates has made an art form of extorting money and getting away with it. By his design, lies, lock-in and greed are the underpinnings of the Microsoft business model.

    However, your logic is bogus. Windows is for victims, and Linux is for those who want to be free.

  • by Free the Cowards (1280296) on Saturday August 30, 2008 @10:32AM (#24810023)

    You claim that wrongful convictions are "extreme exceptions". Do you have evidence for this? Data on wrongful convictions is difficult to obtain for obvious reasons.

    I did manage to find this article [latimes.com] which indicates that the wrongful conviction rate is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1-5%, depending on what data you listen to. That strikes me as enormously high, particularly given the huge US prison population.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Saturday August 30, 2008 @10:53AM (#24810201) Journal
    The jury/judge system errs tremendously on the side of the defendant, for this precise reason.
    You HAVE to be kidding. The system was built to be that way, but it it trivially manipulated. A good example is the case of Tim Masters from Ft. COllins. He was accused of murder with little evidence and served 10+ years based partially on false evidence combined with withheld evidence. In addition, as a one time Ft. Collins EMT, I saw a lot of lies that were perpetrated by the Ft. COllins Police. What it comes down to, is that the system is ONLY as good as the weakest link. Sadly, there are many weak links (DA NEEDS prosecutions, etc).

    I will also tell you that I have taken a plea for a crime that I did not commit, because a cop lied. He was trying hard to cover up the fact that the other witness there was his GF (he lied and said that nobody was with him; found out later that it was his GF that his wife did not know about). The only reason that I took it was that I had lost the trial and was about to appeal and this would clear my name after a year. In return, I did 4 weekends worth of work and paid an additional $400 (a lot of money back in the 80's) on top of the 200 that I had already paid.
  • by mrlibertarian (1150979) on Saturday August 30, 2008 @11:36AM (#24810631)
    If someone pushes the right buttons enough times, they can generally be driven to kill, hide the victim's body, and lie to the children they claim to love, regardless of whether their lives are threatened.

    I agree with what you're saying in general, but let's not forget that in this particular case, we're talking about someone who snapped, and then remained in a 'snapped' state until he was convicted.
  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Saturday August 30, 2008 @01:23PM (#24811689)

    ReiserFS only worked well on filesystems where data reliability was less important than fast access and throughput, such as NNTP servers or web proxies, systems where data is automatically rebuilt if files are lost. For anything that relied on critical backup and data reliability, such as IMAP servers, home directories, or databases, it was a deadly danger likely to corrupt your backups and your databases if anything triggered a problem. I've seen nothing in the last few years to make me think those dangers were ever properly addressed: the necessary sanity checking would have made unacceptably slow the very journaling and high-performance indexing which were critical features.

    If you think he can fix that, maybe he should order another mail-order Russian wife, too. So he can do it right this time, or at least show that he's learned how to hide his traces and pretend innocence better, as ReiserFS did with its history of zeroing files and otherwise mangling filesystems when stressed in ordinary, predictable ways.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 30, 2008 @02:18PM (#24812221)
    Less than 1% of x-to-lifers ever get out. The California governor habitually denies almost all parole requests. Letting out any convict would cost him votes, after all.

"Call immediately. Time is running out. We both need to do something monstrous before we die." -- Message from Ralph Steadman to Hunter Thompson

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