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The Courts Government News

Hans Reiser Guilty of First Degree Murder 1395

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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  • Re:So... (Score:5, Informative)

    by darkmeridian ( 119044 ) <william,chuang&gmail,com> on Monday April 28, 2008 @07:39PM (#23231290) Homepage
    The prosecutor was also able to exclude the testimony of a guy called Sturgeon, who admitted to killing at least eight people and was having an affair with Hans Reiser's wife. If his testimony were allowed, it'd be the battle of the two weirdos and Hans, being the guy in a murder case who hasn't admitted to murdering, probably would have came out on top.
  • Re:A man... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kristoph ( 242780 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @07:41PM (#23231304)
    He didn't represent himself. He took the stand in his own defense.

    Personally I am blown away by the incompetence of the defense attorney. Clearly he must have understood Reiser (guilty or not) would not help his case by testifying. He should never have been put on the stand.

  • by slashqwerty ( 1099091 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @07:42PM (#23231328)
    Summary of evidence:

    1. Reiser showed up at his childrens' school the day after Labor day, the first school day after Nina disappeared and a day when Nina was supposed to pick up the kids. The prosecuter claims he was making sure the police didn't show up to ask where the kids' mother was. Reiser claims he went there to add his mother, Beverly Palmer, to the list of people that could pick up the kids. He was scheduled to pick up the kids the next day.

    2. Hans' Honda CRX was missing the front passenger seat. It went missing sometime after he got a speeding ticket (after Nina disappeared) and before the police seized the vehicle.

    3. Hans admits his hosed out the inside of the car. He removed the seat and threw it away. He also removed the carpet and disposed of it.

    4. The car was also missing a piece of trim that Hans admits to throwing out.

    5. Han's admits he was trying to hide the car from the police.

    6. Nina's van was found three miles from Hans' home. Her cell phone was found in the van with the battery removed.

    7. When Hans was taken into custody his cell phone did not have a battery in it. On the stand he claimed that he did not remove the battery from his own phone. He later admitted he lied about that. He actually removed it frequently after Nina disappeared.

    8. Along with his cell phone, Hans was carrying his passport and several thousand dollars in cash.

    9. Reiser was seen hosing down the driveway to his mother's home shortly after Nina disappeared.

    10. The police found two books on murder in Reiser's car. He had purchased them with cash shortly after Nina disappeared.

    11. He paid a $5,000 retainer to a criminal defense attorney just days after Nina disappeared, while the investigation was still a missing person's case. He didn't even bother to try calling her to find out if she was alive before he shelled out for the retainer.

    My personal opinion is that Hans killed Nina in a fit of rage, then scrambled to cover up the evidence. I did not see any evidence whatsoever of premeditation. So I can not at all understand how this jury reached a verdict of First degree murder.

  • Re:A man... (Score:5, Informative)

    by SashaMan ( 263632 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @07:44PM (#23231356)
    RTFA, Reiser's defense attorney didn't want to put him on the stand, but Reiser insisted.
  • by fred fleenblat ( 463628 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @07:44PM (#23231370) Homepage
    this part of the article caught my eye:

    "Defense attorney William DuBois cross-examined the witnesses about Nina's extramarital affair with Reiser's former best friend, Sean Sturgeon. (The jury was not allowed to hear testimony that Sturgeon has confessed to killing eight people unrelated to the case, in retaliation for child abuse.)"

  • by rossz ( 67331 ) <ogre@noSpAm.geekbiker.net> on Monday April 28, 2008 @07:48PM (#23231410) Homepage Journal
    Except the kids were sent to stay with their grandmother. In Russia. Funny how that worked out.
  • by bckrispi ( 725257 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @07:49PM (#23231418)
    No. They will advise - sometimes in *very* strong terms. But in the end, it's their client's call.
  • Re:WTF (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2008 @07:51PM (#23231454)
    It was a complete lie. Sturgeon didn't kill 8 people, the police checked up on the story. The jury didn't get to hear that part because the police found Sturgeon to be an attention whoring liar.
  • by notamisfit ( 995619 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:03PM (#23231608)
    Reiser's case isn't a capital one. In California IIRC, first-degree murder is only a capital offense when specific aggravated circumstances are present, none of which really apply to this case (ie, killing a cop, felony murder, torture, etc).
  • by nomadic ( 141991 ) <nomadicworld.gmail@com> on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:05PM (#23231650) Homepage
    IANAL, so could someone explain to me how it makes any sense that he was found guilty of first degree murder when no one can even prove that Nina is dead? Maybe a lesser charge such as manslaughter, but I think that the fact that the prosecution cannot definitely say that she is dead should be enough for reasonable doubt.

    You have to convince the jury that the murder happened, and just because you don't have a body doesn't mean a jury can't find beyond a reasonable doubt that a murder took place, if the circumstantial evidence is strong enough.
  • by Abreu ( 173023 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:08PM (#23231692)
    Really kids, listen to this guy.

    I once spent 48hrs in custody and 2 years of going to hearings for not listening to this basic piece of advise.

    I ended up proving myself innocent of what I was being accused of (and the real guilty party, my boss at the time, was never accused).

    So, I learned two valuable lessons after this ordeal:

    1- If you find out that your boss is doing unethical and illegal stuff, quit your job.

    2- If you find yourself being questioned by the police about something, ask first if you are under arrest. If you are, don't say a word to the cops until you get your lawyer to speak for you.
  • by Actually, I do RTFA ( 1058596 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:10PM (#23231710)

    And his attorney did advise against it, in very strong terms.

  • Re:Reasonable doubt? (Score:2, Informative)

    by magnwa ( 18700 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:10PM (#23231720)

    Hans' friend didn't kill anyone. The police investigated him and cleared him. If he'd testified on the stand, he'd be committing perjury too. Besides, I've read the transcripts. Nobody had Sean Sturgeon on their witness lists. The defense could have called him but didn't.
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak.yahoo@com> on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:13PM (#23231756) Homepage Journal
    ...that any person who represents themselves has a fool for a client. Courts follow procedures that are highly complex and use a language that has become so seperate from English that if they used Latin it would probably be easier to follow. If lawyers, with countless years of study, notoriously hard examinations, and then countless more years of professional experience, with numerous assistants and paralegals for reference, can make error after error in a courtroom, it might just be a teensy bit harder for the layman to do as well.

    One must also remember that the US, as with the UK, use the adversarial court system. This attempts to establish guilt. Other countries use the inquisitorial system, which attempts to ascertain the truth of the matter. Both systems produce questionable results and have giant catalogues of miscarriages of justice to their names, which leads me to conclude that you either want a blend of the two or neither, but purely one or the other is inadequate. However, that's not the system used anywhere, as far as I know.

    Do I think Hans Reiser is guilty or innocent? I don't think I know enough to say, for the above reason. I don't think the system exists yet to establish that with any certainty. I think he's guilty of stupidity - you don't ask a SQL database engineer to do assembly code programming, he knows that, so he should have been quite capable of inferring that you don't ask a software engineer to do lawyering. Beyond that, I don't know.

    Sadly, his stupidity isn't grounds for appeal. He can't claim that he misrepresented himself. That doesn't work. We shall probably never know what really happened or why - again, the US system doesn't really try to establish such things. We shall also never really know to what extent Hans Reisers' autism affected the trial. In the legal system as it exists, criminal insanity (not knowing right from wrong) is only sometimes recogized, other forms of insanity or mental abnormality are neither recognized nor considered mitigating factors in a person's actions or a person's evidence. I don't like that either, but again we have the system we have.

    This case proves only one thing to me, and that is that we'd almost be better off with no system at all. Not quite, but almost.

  • by jhealy1024 ( 234388 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:13PM (#23231770)
    IANAL, but it's not quite as black-and-white as "if not under arrest, get up and leave". Make sure you're always courteous, even when you KNOW you're right.

    The ACLU has some hints about this:

        http://www.aclu.org/FilesPDFs/dwb%20bust%20card7_04.pdf [aclu.org]
  • by Baddas ( 243852 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:29PM (#23232010) Homepage
    Indeed, the right to a fair trial also covers the right to face your accusers and testify in your own defense.
  • Re:Reasonable doubt? (Score:4, Informative)

    by jjohnson ( 62583 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:43PM (#23232212) Homepage
    The police investigated and concluded he's a nutcase because Sturgeon couldn't demonstrate that he'd actually killed eight people. And if putting Sturgeon in jail solves eight unsolved murders at the cost of freeing Reiser, well, if I were a cop I'd happily make that trade.

    Given that Sturgeon's a fameseeking whackjob, it's certainly correct that his 'confession' should not have been allowed in court to affect Reiser's trial.
  • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:45PM (#23232236) Homepage Journal
    She wasn't a doctor, though. She was a "child physician", a title that lacks a counterpart in the US, and is often incorrectly translated to doctor. It doesn't give MD status, is a low-paid job in Russia, and is in reality closer to a midwife with prescription rights.

    But no, it's pretty clear that she would not abandon her kids like that. And who, if planning to run away, would buy $140 worth of groceries and leave it in their car?

    Let's hope the killer is man enough to now tell where the body was disposed of, so the family can find some closure.
  • Re:Free Software (Score:2, Informative)

    by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:48PM (#23232280)
    >Can he work on free software from jail?

    Depends on the jail. I had a co-worker who learned programming in a prison rehab program. He was very good at what he did.

    But, at least to start with, Hans is going to go to one of the standard places where you go for 1st degree murder.
    He will be lucky if he gets an hour "outdoors" or ever again sees a window. But at least it's California. There's a chance he might, someday, get access to some kind of computer. He might even get a regular IT job, within the system.

    But it might be a few years before he even gets a *radio*. Start with "your own roll of toilet paper in your cell".

  • Your silence CANNOT be used against you in court.

    Actually, it is. Something along the lines of "the defendant offered no explanation of..." Silence is also equated with "uncooperative."

    You're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

    Yo've been watching too much TV. The judge's charge to the jury in a murder trial is VERY explicit on this point - the defendant doesn't have to explain ANYTHING - the burden of proof lies entirely with the prosecution, and the jury is forbidden to interpret the defendants' refusal to testify as any sort of indication of guilt or innocence.

    And yes, I've sat as a juror on a murder trial [slashdot.org]. (the linked entry is for the 3rd murder trial I've been involved with)

  • by shadow42 ( 996367 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @08:58PM (#23232400)
    That joke and ReiserFS are similar in that they both can replay themselves.
  • by Martin Blank ( 154261 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:14PM (#23232556) Homepage Journal
    According to California Penal Code Section 189:

    All murder which is perpetrated by means of
    • a destructive device or explosive,
    • a weapon of mass destruction,
    • knowing use of ammunition designed primarily to penetrate metal or armor,
    • poison,
    • lying in wait,
    • torture, or
    • by any other kind of willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing, or
    • which is committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate,
      • arson,
      • rape,
      • carjacking,
      • robbery,
      • burglary,
      • mayhem,
      • kidnapping,
      • train wrecking, or
      • any act punishable under Section 206 [torture], 286 [sodomy], 288 [forced sexual contact], 288a [lewd and lascivious acts on a child under the age of 14], or 289 [rape], or
      • any murder which is perpetrated by means of discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, intentionally at another person outside of the vehicle with the
        intent to inflict death,
    is murder of the first degree.

    I introduced the lists to make it more readable, and put clarifications for the referenced sections in brackets to avoid the need to look them up.
  • Re:Down here... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:26PM (#23232688)
    They have NEVER needed a body. Actually having a body has never been a requirement for bringing or convicting on a murder charge. It's too easy to dispose of a body--cremation, hell, simple burial if you're good at concealing where you dug the grave.
  • Re:Down here... (Score:3, Informative)

    by kalidasa ( 577403 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:31PM (#23232738) Journal
    Habeas corpus? It's not just a legal term, it's a question in Latin. That's why they're saying you have to have a body; they don't understand that *habeas corpus* is a metaphor, and that having abundant physical evidence that a crime was committed (large quantities of blood, anyone?) is usually enough.
  • by Actually, I do RTFA ( 1058596 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:50PM (#23232952)

    Maybe she was menstruating.

    Then there would be endometrial cells present, which are only present in menstral blood (or if the cuts were through her uterous I suppose.)

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

    by anagama ( 611277 ) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Monday April 28, 2008 @09:50PM (#23232958) Homepage
    Habeas refers to the _defendant's_ body. You have bring the person to court, demonstrate that he hasn't been killed or tortured, and publicly announce the charges. Habeas corpus does not refer to victim's bodies. For a nice history of Habeas, see Habeas Schmabeas [thislife.org].
  • Re:Sad news... (Score:3, Informative)

    by grumbel ( 592662 ) <grumbel+slashdot@gmail.com> on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:08PM (#23233150) Homepage

    How many people ever used ReiserFS?
    A lot, especially when you have LVM running and want to resize a filesystem online. The stuff you are referring to is completly out of date and was the result of SuSE making ReiserFS the default filesystem back then when it was still brand new and not completly ready for prime time (as easily seen by the lack of proper fsck back then).
  • by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:36PM (#23233428)

    I did not see any evidence whatsoever of premeditation. So I can not at all understand how this jury reached a verdict of First degree murder.
    Books and Web searches on murder and homicide investigations.
  • by Immortal Poet ( 1048010 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @10:38PM (#23233444)
    Actually, you don't need a body. The Charley Project [charleyproject.org] has documented 170 cases of convictions without bodies, though their list is incomplete and out of date. It's almost certainly much more than that.
  • by Rutulian ( 171771 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @11:05PM (#23233682)
    So, I've actually served on a jury for a murder trial, and I can tell you it was a very educational process. For one thing, I learned that premeditation does not mean planned in the case of first degree murder. It simply means that the defendant had time to reflect. It does not mean the defendant had to have a lot of time to think, it just means there was a logical sequence of actions: reflection, decision to act, and act, all of which can happen in the course of a few seconds. Now, I agree, I don't know how the jury determined there was premeditation in this case, but the legal definition of premeditation is often quite different from what people believe.
  • by Nephilium ( 684559 ) on Monday April 28, 2008 @11:15PM (#23233766) Homepage

    As a side note... check out:

    http://flexyourrights.org/ [flexyourrights.org]

    They've got some good write ups about what your rights are under various police encounters...


  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2008 @11:54PM (#23234086)
    I think the degree of the crime isn't limited to simply premeditated murder in most states. It can be used for particularly nasty murders also, it affects the sentencing guidelines. The definition of premeditation can be just an active and conscious thought before the act. Killing the mother of your children is a particularly offensive crime to most, doing so and seemingly showing no remorse or regret or concern about the welfare of the children and how they might feel about not having a mother isn't premeditated but it does show some callousness. This is a country that has an incredibly high respect for the bond between a mother and her children, you cannot underestimate that and Hans' actions don't seem to show that he understood that.
  • But no, it's pretty clear that she would not abandon her kids like that.
    And if she is alive (I'm not convinced either way), she didn't. Her mom took her kids to Russia.

    And who, if planning to run away, would buy $140 worth of groceries and leave it in their car?
    Someone trying to frame their spouse.
  • Re:The FAT defence (Score:4, Informative)

    by VGPowerlord ( 621254 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @01:28AM (#23234750)
    You know, I'd consider marking that as Funny if I had mod points... and if you weren't confusing FAT16 and FAT32.
  • Re:So... (Score:4, Informative)

    by TrentC ( 11023 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @02:07AM (#23234968) Homepage
    According to the San Francisco Chronicle blog that was following Reiser's trial, Sean Sturgeon's testimony was not excluded: he was never called on to testify, by either the prosecution or the defense.

    If you were the defense attorney and Sturgeon could provide testimony that would help exonerate your client, wouldn't you call him as a witness?
  • Re:The FAT defence (Score:4, Informative)

    by RiotingPacifist ( 1228016 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @03:15AM (#23235316)
    You Know, I'd probably mark you as informative if i had mod points...The fact I'm didn't confuse anything and your post isn't informative at all wouldn't stop me though.

    While I know where you were coming from you got your limits wrong
    Partition limits FAT12:32MB FAT16:2GB* FAT32:8TB
    File size limit for all 4GB --that's what I was referring to BTW

    *upon further inspection there is a 4GB mode for 64k clusters (not widely supported), so your not wrong about the limits but you are wrong about me being wrong

    Anyway I hope this posts explains the factual correctness of a joke, I will admit I was initially going to just refer to the partition a FAT partition but then I realised somebody might be running some obscure FAT64 that hasn't got the 4GB file limit and it could of spawned an entire thread of FAT comments debating its utility, so I stuck 32 in to avoid a pointless thread.
  • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @06:00AM (#23235982)
    This does not apply in the UK, where we no longer have a right to silence.

    UK You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.


    You do not have to say anything unless you wish to do so, but I must warn you that if you fail to mention any fact which you rely on in your defence in court, your failure to take this opportunity to mention it may be treated in court as supporting any relevant evidence against you. If you do wish to say anything, what you say may be given in evidence.
  • by osu-neko ( 2604 ) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @07:39AM (#23236350)

    The US has a quarter of the world's prisoners but has less than 5% of the world's population. That's because in a lot of other countries, they just kill instead of imprisoning.
    What?! No it's not! That's ridiculous! That fact alone would not even come close to accounting for the huge number of prisoners we have compared to other populous countries. Especially when you consider that, among the world's more populous countries, and setting China aside, we kill *more* of our criminals, not less. India, with over a billion people, executes less people per decade than Texas alone does per year. Most of the other populous nations don't execute people at all. In a nation where we kill more criminals than is typical, we still have a larger prison population. The size of our prison population is more certainly not because they kill more people in other countries. There are some countries where they do kill people more frequently, but the numbers don't come anywhere even remotely close to making your claim anything less than utterly preposterous.
  • by jambarama ( 784670 ) <jambarama.gmail@com> on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @01:08PM (#23240436) Homepage Journal

    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?

    Nope, it means the US has enforced more laws with longer penalties which criminalize more behavior than other large countries. Would you do ten years for 5 grams of crack in Spain? I don't think so.

Air is water with holes in it.