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Notes From The First Two Days
Of The Hans Reiser Trial.

What happened in court, Wed. Nov. 7, 2007.

On the first day of the Hans Reiser trial, Deputy DA Paul Hora had told the jury that he must prove at least two things to them beyond reasonable doubt. They are (1) Nina Reiser is dead; and (2) Hans Reiser killed her. This morning, Hora continued his opening statement by trying to do exactly that.

(1) That Nina is dead:

Hora took the jury through what Nina did on Sunday, Sept 3, 2006, the day she disappeared, with receipts at the Berkeley Bowl (a grocery store), the store's time-stamped videotape, and the two last cell phone calls she made. Both calls were to Hans Reiser's Exeter Drive residence (owned by his mother, Beverly). Since each call lasted only seconds, Hora surmised that Nina's purpose for the first call was to inform Hans Reiser that she was running late (she was supposed to meet with him at the Exeter house at 2pm); her second and last call was at 2:04pm, telling him that she was on her way with their 2 kids. That call was the last call she ever made, and the last call that was ever made from her cell phone. If each call lasted only seconds, it is possible/likely that neither call was answered. Would Hora imply the calls were answered, when in fact, they weren't? Yes, he definitely would.

On Sept. 9, six days after she disappeared, her cell phone was found inside her minivan parked on a quiet residential street 3 miles (or 8 minutes' drive) from Hans Reiser's Exeter house. Ignored, is the fact that her van was abandoned a mere quarter of a mile from the house of her friend, Ellen Doren, on Capricorn Avenue.[1] Click here for a street map of the area. Inside the car were the following:
  1. An envelope with a rent check, dated Sept. 1, to her landlord;
  2. Bags of groceries containing fruits, veggies, alphabet crackers, sour cream, cookies, eggs, a carton of milk (gone sour), cheese, and oatmeal;
  3. Books on parenting, self-improvement, and how to be a good doctor;
  4. Her handbag containing her cell phone (with the battery removed); a wallet with $94.07 in cash, the Berkeley Bowl receipts, credit cards, pictures of her kids, and her driver's license.
But there were no car keys. There were no signs of struggle inside the van (no blood) or signs of a robbery (all her possessions were there).

Hora reasoned to the jury that it makes no sense that Nina left the Exeter house that afternoon and, instead of driving 5.3 miles (15 mins.) to her home so that she could put her groceries in the fridge, she instead drove 3 miles to park her car on that residential street, remove the battery from her cell phone, then left her car with all the groceries inside. All initial reports state that Nina planned to go to the Berkeley Bowl after dropping the kids off with Hans.[2] Hora's logical conclusion is that Nina did not put the minivan there. Hora is lying by ommission. He knows damn well that the van was abandoned close to Ellen Doren's home. Hora, just doesn't want the jury finding out about this. And, interestingly, neither does the trial judge, Larry Goodman.[3]

Hora then showed some photos of the living room of the Exeter house. Inside the living room, near the front door, is a wooden floor-to-ceiling pole. When the police finally searched the Exeter house on September 13-14, they found blood on the pole 45.5 inches from the floor, comprised of one bloody spot and two blood smears.

DNA tests on the stains found a major donor (female) and a minor donor (male). The major donor is a perfect match of Nina's DNA, obtained from her underwear, razor, and contact lens case. The DNA from the minor donor matched Hans Reiser's DNA, obtained on Sept. 28 from a swatch from his gums.

We are to believe, that the traces of Nina's blood on the pillar, are "evidence" that Nina has been stabbed, or slashed, to death. Therefore, the traces of Hans' blood on the pillar, must be "evidence" that Hans has also been stabbed, or slashed, to death. However, no cuts, scratches, or even bruises, were found on Hans Reiser.[4,5,6] Clearly, something is wrong here.

The problem is, that the blood traces do not imply recent cuts, or scratches. In fact, the blood traces may have been left on the pillar, some months, even years, before. Forensics, does not tell you how long ago the blood was deposited.[7,8] Palmer testified that the blood on the pillar had been there before Nina disappeared.[9]

Hora conceded that science cannot tell us WHEN the blood stains were left, but he asked the jury to use our "common sense" as to how Nina could have left her blood stains on that wooden pole. If the jury was to use "common sense," they would see that Hora is simply a liar. Forensics, cannot tell him whether or not the blood stains have been there for years, yet Hora "knows" they are from Sept. 3.

(2) Having made his case that Nina did not "disappear" but had died, DA Paul Hora next tried to show that it was Hans Reiser who killed her. Having made his case!?!? Oh really? Chuckle. Let me summarize his case: Lady disappears, lady has not been seen for a year, therefore, lady is dead. He ignores the possibility that she may be deliberately laying low, in order to have Hans convicted of her murder. To do that, Hora turned to Hans Reiser's "incriminating and suspicious" behavior immediately following Nina's disappearance.

His behaviors include the following:

(a) Hans Reiser never reported to the police that Nina had disappeared. Instead, it was Nina's friend Ellen who reported her as a missing person on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2 days after Nina had disappeared.

There had been a disagreement over who was supposed to have the kids that weekend and it was decided to split it up. Hans was to have the children until Tuesday morning, when he would take them to school. Nina was to pick them up after school.[10] Hans Reiser had no way of knowing Nina had disappeared until Sept. 5, 2 days after her disappearance. So, it seems more than a little unfair, to expect him to report her disappearance before he knew about it.

However, Ellen Doren knew about Nina's disappearance on Sept. 3 and did not report it to police until around 9 pm Sept. 5, more than 2 days after her disappearance. So Doren, is actually guilty of what Reiser was accused of (but not guilty of), namely, not reporting Nina's disappearance for two days. This was incriminating for Hans Reiser, so must also point the finger at Doren, as a possible killer.

Even more telling is that Doren does not phone Hans, or visit his house, to find out if Nina might be with him and the children, or to see if she has picked up the children and gone elsewhere. Remember, Nina was going to Ellen Doren's place. How do we know that she didn't arrive and Doren killed her there (perhaps accidently)? How do we know that Doren wasn't the last person to see Nina alive?

(b) When Oakland PD came to Ellen's house at around 9 pm, Sept. 5, to take down her missing person report, Ellen called Hans Reiser's cell phone at 9:21 pm and spoke to him for 6 mins. She told him that she had picked up his and Nina's two kids from school that afternoon at 5:30 because Nina is missing, and that the two children are with her (Ellen). She asks Hans Reiser if that's ok with him. He says "uh uh."

There is a huge lie of ommission here. At 2:30 pm, Doren had turned up at the school to pick up the children from day care, but did not have permission, so she left without them.[11,12] At about 5:00 pm, Hans Reiser dropped by the school to set up a meeting to discuss the day care's enrollment policies.[13] He speaks with Natalie Potter. Potter tells him that Doren wishes to pick up the children. Reiser gives his permission for her to do so, which she does a few minutes later, at 5:15 pm.[14]

Interestingly, although Potter knows that Nina is missing, she neither tells Reiser this, nor asks Reiser if he knows where Nina is. Potter, like Doren, doesn't bother to ask the children if they know where their mother is. It is also known that Hans attempts to call Nina at 5:04 pm.[15] This timing places him at the school, with Potter. Potter never mentions this call in testimony.

Ellen then says that she knows Nina had gone to his house on Sunday, Sept. 3. Hans Reiser replies: "I need to talk with my attorney."

There is another huge lie of ommission here. On Sept. 5, Oakland police conducted a phone interview with Reiser.[16,17] The only time this can have occurred is before Doren calls at 9:21 pm. So, Reiser's reply has to be put in the context of having just spoken to police, presumedly, about Nina's disappearance.

Ellen then says: "I have a police officer here and he would like to talk to you." Hans Reiser hangs up, without asking about his kids and how they are.

The words chosen here, carefully misrepresent the facts. Earlier, Reiser had given Doren his permission to pick up the children. Doren has just stated that they are still with her and she asks if this is all right. He replies, yes. What more does he need to ask Doren concerning the children? Anyway, Reiser has just found out that Nina is missing. He hasn't had time to plan how to answer Doren's questions.

When Doren turned up at the school to pick up the children, she told school employees that Nina was out of town. Potter testifies that Nina's daughter, Niorline, was with Doren and that Doren made the remark "for the benefit of the child."[18] So, we are to believe that Doren, who is worried sick about her missing friend Nina, does not bother to ask Niorline (or Rory) if she has seen her mother recently, or otherwise, knows where she is.

(c) Hans Reiser's car (a Honda CRX that is actually registered to his mother, Beverly) was missing for days. He told Beverly that the CRX had a dead battery. So he drove (monopolized) Beverly's car (a Honda hybrid), until she finally succeeded in repossessing the hybrid from him on Sept. 10, 2006.[19] Instead of driving the hybrid, Beverly parked it at her boyfriend's house, with a "club" on the steering wheel. She then drove a rental car instead.

Palmer most probably hired the rental car before Hans relinquished the Honda Civic hybrid. Since renting a car by the week is discounted, she probably had time left on the deal and continued to drive it after getting her Honda Civic back. Later, police seized her Honda Civic and she rented a second car.[20]

All of which is suggestive of a less-than-ideal mother-son relationship!

However, on Sept. 21, 2006, Palmer took Hans to Budget Rent-a-Car in Hayward and rented a car for his use.[21]

The police finally located Hans Reiser's Honda CRX 15 days after the car had gone missing, on Sept. 18, via an elaborate cat-and-mouse surveillance-chase of Hans Reiser by 11 police officers in multiple cars and a helicopter.

Hans had initiated litigation to regain custody of his children. He was secretly trailed from the Alameda County Family Court, in an operation involving 11 or 12 officers in numerous unmarked cars and a special surveillance aircraft.[22,23] A later police affadvit states that Hans with friend, Artem Mishin, driving him "appeared to be conducting counter-surveillance" by driving at varying speeds, turning down small residential streets and making abrupt stops.[24]

Mishin later testifies that he had "no idea" at the time that Oakland police were secretly trailing them. "They did a good job," Mishin said. In court, Dec. 17, 2007, Mishin gives a number of innocent explanations for the behavior.[25]

When Hans Reiser (unknowingly) led the police to his Honda CRX parked on a residential street, the police saw that the car's front passenger seat was missing.

Child Protective Services had told Beverly Palmer, that they would only consider giving her custody of the children, if Hans were to move out of her house.[26,27] In response to Child Protective Services demand, Reiser moves into the Honda CRX. Reiser was still attempting to pay wages at his business, Namesys, and used the car as cheap accommodation. Later, Child Protective Services tells Beverly Palmer that Reiser is sleeping in the Honda CRX. They claim that this makes him a poor candidate for getting custody of the children.[28] Palmer testified that he initially slept in the front seat.[29,30] He took out the passenger seat so he could lie down and sleep more comfortably.[31,32]

(d) Hans Reiser's other suspicious behaviors:

(i) On Sept. 5, just 2 days after Nina's disappearance, at about 11pm Hans Reiser's neighbor Jack Stab saw him hosing down something in his driveway, for about a half hour. Although it was "hot as hell" that night, Hans Reiser was wearing a winter coat.

Jack Stabb, sees Hans "spraying water off of something in the driveway for half-an-hour."[33] In court, Stabb states he did not have direct vision of the driveway and could not say for sure whether a car was being washed.[34] He also mentioned that the next morning, the driveway was filthy and covered with pine needles.[35]

The most likely explanation for this, is that Reiser was cleaning his mother's 2003 Honda Civic, after her return from the Burning Man trip at 2:00 pm that day.[36] You know, cleaning off the mud and pine needles and such.

Stabb also said, "Reiser, meanwhile, was 'dressed for winter,' wearing what looked like a hooded hunting jacket."[35]

Reiser was probably wearing a raincoat. This is not unusual when cleaning up with a hose and spraying around a lot of water.

Jack Stabb is probably lying here. In court, he relates his interest in events by saying, "I thought it was kind of strange... 'What are you doing, washing the driveway?'"[37] He notes the time. The next morning, he even investigates the driveway and reports it to be "filthy and covered with pine needles." So, on the one hand, Jack Stabb finds this event rather intriguing and worth further investigation. On the other hand, he isn't even interested enough to look through another window to see what Hans is actually doing.

(ii) On Sept. 8, five days after Nina's disappearance, Hans Reiser purchased two books from Barnes and Noble, titled "Masterpieces of Murder" and "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets."

It is claimed that Reiser buys the books to find out about police excesses in homicide investigation.[38,39] It appears that Reiser fears he may be framed for murder. DuBois says that the books contain chapters on how corrupt police plant evidence and set up murder scenes.[40] Attorney, Daniel Horowitz, states, "He's an intelligent man. He's going to want to know what the police are up to. What's he supposed to be doing, reading comic books?"[41]

(iii) On Sept. 10, he bought a roll of shop towels and a bottle of Valvoline fuel dryer and antifreeze (to get water out of a car's gas tank) from Kragen Auto Supply.

Shop towels are small hand towels. They are usually blue and are used to wipe grease and oil from ones hands. Reiser was having trouble starting the CRX. Water in the fuel will cause a car to have trouble starting. The Valvoline fuel dryer, removes the water from the fuel, which may solve the problem.

(iv) On Sept. 17, he bought a 40-piece socket set from Kragen.

He bought the 40-piece socket wrench set, to remove the front passenger seat, so that he could sleep lying down.

All the above purchases were paid with cash. DA Hora also pointed out that Hans Reiser has a black belt in judo, and that one of judo skills is the art of choking (someone), done in a fast and quiet way.

This is like the DA saying, having once worked as a carpenter, Reiser may have killed Nina by bludgeoned her to death with a hammer. It's fast, it's quiet and it's deadly.

Court was adjourned at 4pm, to resume Thursday morning at 9:45. It is expected that the DA will take another hour tomorrow to finish his opening statement. Then it will be the Defense's opening statement.

What happened in court, Thu. Nov. 8, 2007.

On the morning of Nov. 8, prosecutor Paul Hora resumed his Opening Statement by continuing his two-pronged approach. Recall that, to get a conviction from the jury, Hora has to accomplish two things:

(1) Prove that Nina is dead, not "missing"; and (2) Prove that Hans killed her.

Hora's task is made doubly difficult because, as he admits, this is a purely circumstantial evidence case: There is no dead body, no murder weapon found, and no witness(es).

(1) Nina is dead:

Yes, Nina could be dead. She may have died at Ellen Doren's house. Then again, she could be deliberately laying low, in order to have Hans convicted of her murder. She may be conspiring with her family to milk the situation for all that they can. Her mother, Irina Sharanova, has already received $20,000 from CBS.[42]

* Hora describes the efforts taken by Nina's then-boyfriend, Anthony, to look for her. He repeatedly called her; drove by her house; drove around Oakland; distributed missing person flyers; and put up 18 "$15,000 Reward" missing-person billboards. He also went to Nina's home (he has a key), but found nothing out of the ordinary. Her black cat was there. Anthony looked at Nina's computer (he has her password) and looked through her e-mail and Internet browsing history.

* Next, Hora describes police efforts to search for Nina. They went to her home and took many pictures. Every room in her home appeared neat and orderly. On the kitchen table, two sets of glasses and spoons were laid out. On the refrigerator was a calendar on which Nina had written her kids' breakfasts and lunches. In the kitchen sink were two plants in small pots, as if Nina had left them there to drain after having just watered them. On the wall over her bed in her bedroom was the large photo-portrait of Nina holding baby Rory which DA Hora has displayed in the courtroom.

* Evidence found by the police pointing to Nina's death:
  • Her Russian and American passports, found in her home.
  • INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) has no record of Nina having left the United States.
  • No results from the National Missing Person database.
  • No activity in Nina's financial accounts (bank, credit cards) after her last transaction at Berkeley Bowl on Sept. 3, the day of her disappearance.
  • No cell phone activity after her last call to Hans at his Exeter home on Sept. 3.
  • Nina missed some very important dates, including appointments to be finger-printed for and to begin her new job with the SF Dept of Public Health.
(2) Hans killed Nina:

* Hora spent most of the morning on this. He began by noting important similarities between the locations of Nina's Odyssey minivan (found 6 days after her disappearance) and Hans' supposedly-missing Honda CRX. Both cars were found 2.5 to 3 miles from Hans's Exeter house. Both cars were parked on quiet residential streets near Highway 13. (In effect, Hora is suggesting that the same person, Hans, had hidden the two cars because the same modus operandi was employed.)

Important similarities? Chuckle. Isn't this guy, Hora, just something else?

* When Hans (unknowingly) led the police to his CRX on the night of Sept. 18, the police took photos of the car, put a GPS devise on it, then left the car where it was parked. The next morning, the car had not been moved. At 10:30am, the police had it towed to the crime lab and found the following:

Police claim that they spotted Hans running up Shepherd Canyon Road (all initial reports say Snake Boulevard) toward his home, which he shares with his mother, and is some two to three miles away.[43] If police actually believed their own claim, then there was almost no chance that Reiser would return to the Honda CRX that night. So, they may as well tow the vehicle there and then.

However, police placed a GPS devise on the car and left it parked where it was. Why did the police do this?

The next day, in a wire-tapped call, Hans asks his mother to meet him at the Mormon Temple (4770 Lincoln Ave, Oakland), saying, "I want to talk to you about something."[44] The Mormon Temple is about 3/4 of a mile from where his Honda CRX was parked.

So, why is it necessary to phone his mother from the Mormon Temple and arrange a meeting there, in order to share what he has on his mind? Why didn't he just do this in the morning, when he was at home with his mother.

Putting it slightly differently; Why would he walk from the house which he shared with his mother, to the Mormon Temple, in order to call his mother at the house he had just left, and ask her to meet him at the temple, so that he could speak to her?

Why did the police do this? The answer appears to be, because Hans slept in the car overnight and that police witnessed this. The reports of Hans running up Shepherd Canyon Road/Snake Boulevard were probably fabricated, by certain police, to draw unwanted police eyes away from seeing exactly what Reiser was about. For more on this, see [57].

-- The front passenger seat was gone, leaving four holes in the floor where the seat bolts would have been;

We are told that there was standing water in the car's front passenger seat. We are told that there were four holes in the floor where the seat bolts would have been. Why didn't the "standing water" drain through the holes? Are we being lied to yet again?

-- In the rear hatchback area (to which Hans was observed the previous evening to have repeatedly rummaged around in) were a spare tire, jack, a sleeping bag stuffsack, black plastic trashbags, and a socket set (that Hans bought the previous day, Sept. 17, from Kragen). Found in other areas of the car were: the two books on murder which Hans bought from Barnes and Noble; a camping tent; a map of Stockton; an atlas of Northern California; clothes; flyers from a rental storage place in Manteca; an U-Haul one-way Manteca-to-Oakland rental agreement; receipts (from Kragen, Target, etc.); a ratchet, socket, and adapter (all from the socket set); and 4 seat bolts. Hora then showed a photo showing how the bolt fits perfectly into one of the holes in the car's floor beneath the missing passenger seat.

A sleeping bag stuffsack, a camping tent, but no sleeping bag? Until Jan. 22, 2008, not a single press report mentions a sleeping bag in the vehicle. Not a single report, made public by the court, mentions a sleeping bag in the vehicle. Do you really think it likely that there was no sleeping bag in the vehicle, or do you think that the press, the courts and the police have all deliberately failed to mention this? After Jan. 22, 2008, the fact that there was a sleeping bag in the vehicle, was commonly acknowledged.

Food and drinks, reading material and toiletry items were also found in the vehicle.[45] Before Jan. 22, 2008, there was no mention of any of these items which indicate Hans was living in the vehicle.

-- DNA tests on stains found on the sleeping bag stuffsack show that one stain from a female donor is an exact match of Nina's DNA. The second stain was from a male donor, which is an exact match of Hans' DNA.

We are to believe, that the traces of Nina's blood on the sleeping bag stuffsack, are "evidence" that Nina has been stabbed, or slashed, to death. Therefore, the traces of Hans' blood on the sleeping bag stuffsack, must be "evidence" that Hans has also been stabbed, or slashed, to death. However, no cuts, scratches, or even bruises, were found on Hans Reiser.[4,5,6] Clearly, something is wrong here.

The problem is, that the blood traces do not imply recent cuts, or scratches. In fact, the blood traces may have been left on the stuffsack, some months, even years, before. Forensics, does not tell you how long ago the blood was deposited.

Palmer, testified that Hans and Nina had often stayed over at her home and that they had slept in sleeping bags.[46] The blood was possibly deposited on the stuffsack then. Hans has testified that while married to Nina, they used the sleeping bag itself, as a comforter on their bed, and that they had sex on it.[47]

-- After all the stuff in the car was removed, there was a dark wet (but rustless) area on the car floor. Ordinarily, persistent wetness would lead to rusting. However, weather records for the month of September 2006 show that Northern California had been without rain and dry. All of which suggests that the wet area in Hans' car floor was recent. Though recent, it was VERY wet: the water soaked through the car mat to the floor board.

There is no evidence Hans washed the Honda CRX, at all. We only know is that there was (supposedly) standing water in front passenger seat area. Hans could have simply spilt a bottle of mineral water there. After all, he was living in the car and needed a drink from time to time.

-- Finally, the car's battery is 3 years old, with a "Sept '03" date. Recall that, to explain why he wasn't driving the CRX, Hans had told his mother on Sept. 5 (2006) that his car's battery was dead. But on Sept 12, Hans was driving the CRX in Redwood City when a cop gave him a traffic citation (for not yielding to a bus). There was also nothing wrong with the car battery on Sept. 18. (In other words, DA Hora is suggesting that Hans lied to his mom about the CRX being inoperative due to a dead battery.)

The implication here is clearly wrong. It is possible to run a car with no battery at all. By push starting it, for example. It is common that a car with a near dead battery, after being started with jumper leads, will run all day (even with stopping and starting the motor). It is also common, that that same car, will not start the next morning.

* On Sept. 23, Hans made 3 separate cash withdrawals, of $1000 each, from his credit union in 3 cities (San Leandro, Hayward, Fremont).

There was a withdrawal limit of $1000 at each of the credit unions.[48]

* That evening, 20 days after Nina had disappeared, Hans called his mother in her Exeter home. By this time, Oakland PD had the phone tapped. DA Hora then plays the audiotape of the phonecall, in which Hans portrays himself as the reasonable party and victim in the divorce. He had wanted a mediator, but not Nina. Nina has Munchausen-by-proxy syndrome, concocting imagined illnesses for their son, Rory. Both Rory and Hans were her proxy. "By finding him (Rory) borderline autistic, that was her way of degrading me." "Rory said he wanted to live only with me and I think that's because he understands his mother, who wants him to be sick... on some deep conflicted level."

Hans also says Nina is profligate and a liar: "She would do things like she would buy this really fancy laptop... but we got her in (divorce) deposition on that one... prove she was lying. She stole stuff... money. At the time that I was asking my guys (employees of Hans' company, Namesys) to take pay cut... she was spending money like crazy" to inflate the baseline for her future spousal support. "She was doing that while the company was going bankrupt. She concealed money, don't know how much, before and after the divorce. She hates me and calls the police, she knows that she's a woman, but in this case it didn't work. The police wanted to arrest her, but I wouldn't let them -- I wasn't bruised... If your wife hits you and hits you during the divorce, you should have police arrest her. But I didn't. Being decent was a mistake I paid for heavily. Rory would be better if she had gone to jail... She just abused me, she looks for every possible way to screw me -- and did it. The fact that I was a good and generous husband seems to be a weakness to her."

Hans' mother, Beverly: "Hans, as bad as this all is, it's still bad what happened to her. She didn't deserve whatever that happened to her, whatever she did, done."

Hans: "I don't think my children should be endangered by her. That's all I ever wanted was unite with her and give her an opportunity to come to the U.S., to have some children."

Beverly: "She still didn't deserve what happened to her."
Hans: "Yeah, and neither did I, and neither did Rory."
Beverly: "Hopefully we'll somehow get through this."
Hans: "It's just that...the whole court system made it so much worse than it had to. Just so much worse."
Beverly: "Well, that's true."
Hans: "These lawyers systematically drain me of what I have... used it to make money." Referring to Nina's divorce attorney Shelley Gordon, Hans says "she had the nerve to tell me I deserve it."

The phonecall ends with Hans promising he'll e-mail her (which suggests that Hans wasn't living in the Exeter home (he was living in his car)), and Beverly reminding him of an upcoming appointment to see his children (by this time they were in foster care). Hans concludes the phonecall, "Byebye, I love you. I love you a lot."

* On Sept. 24, Hans withdraws yet more cash from 3 ATMs in Truckee. He also buys a phonecard in Roseville on Sept. 27.

* By Sept. 28, police had sufficient evidence for a search warrant. Hans was taken to the PD, had his picture taken (looking much heavier, 20 lbs?, (40 lbs) than he appears today in the courtroom), and examined. No scratches or bruises were found on his body. Inside his fannypack were the following:
  1. $8,960 in cash.
  2. Hans' U.S. passport.
  3. Borders' and Barnes and Noble Rewards Cards.
  4. Receipts.
  5. A cellphone, with its battery removed (but the battery is in the fannypack). Hora asks rhetorically: "How many people drive around with the battery removed from the cellphone, or with the passenger seat removed?"
  6. A typed (unlikely, probably printed) three-page statement titled "Statement by Hans Reiser," in which Hans accuses Nina of making up lies about herself (that she has post-traumatic disorder) and about Rory's illnesses. Hans rails against Nina being awarded sole custody of Rory; says his children in Nina's care are sleeping poorly on a plastic mattress. "I may be a danger in the worldview of some, but I'm no danger to my children."
* The police released Hans that evening (Sept. 28) and began a 24-hour surveillance. On the morning of October 10, the police arrested Hans Reiser for the murder of Nina.

With this, Hora ends his Opening Statement, reminding the jury again that they must evaluate each piece of evidence and ask what it means. "Think about all the circumstances surrounding Nina's disappearance and Hans' behaviors. There's really one simple explanation, and that's that (pointing at Hans) this man killed her. I ask you to return a verdict of 'guilty' of murder, homicide."

Actually, there is another simple explanation, and that is that the police, Hora, etc, are trying to frame Hans Reiser for a murder that he never committed and probably, never happened.

Defense attorney William Du Bois' opening statements.

After the lunch break, court resumes at 2pm with the Opening Statement of Hans' defense attorney, William Du Bois.

Du Bois is medium-height, 60-something, with greying hair, a slight belly paunch, glasses, and overall avuncular looking. He is certainly not the kind of slick, preening, media-hogging defense lawyers whom we have seen so much of late. He also clearly is a seasoned attorney: he gave a bravura performance, without reading from notes, and was quite funny at times. That being said, I find at least one of his tactics to be underhanded and objectionable (more on this later).

Put in a nut shell, Du Bois's charge is to induce reasonable doubt in at least ONE juror about the prosecution's contention that Nina is dead, and that it was Hans who killed her. To do that, it appears that Du Bois has adopted a three-pronged strategy of: (1) We don't really know what happened to Nina; (2) Hans is innocent of murder; and (3) Prosecution cannot be trusted.

(1) We don't really know what happened to Nina:

What Defense must do is to introduce doubt about almost everything concerning this case, chief of which is the Prosecution's portrayal of Nina as a good mother who fell victim to her heartless estranged husband. In fact, just about everything the Prosecution has said about Nina is untrue because it is simply the fictitious public image that Nina concocted and projected - "she attends carefully to her public image" - as much a lie as that lovely photo portrait of Nina holding baby Rory, that is displayed in the courtroom. According to Du Bois, the true Nina is a master manipulator who uses men, is secretive, unfaithful, and weaves "a pattern of deception."

Actually, all the defense has to do is show that the police only had one suspect, Hans, from the beginning and tried to slant everything against Hans. The police tried everything short of faking physical evidence. The police ignored other potential killers, like Ellen Doren.

To begin with, the way Hans and Nina met was seedy (not Du Bois's word, but implied). They had met when Hans answered Nina's personal ad in "European Connections," a dating-service (Du Bois dubs it "mail order bride") magazine published in Atlanta, USA. Du Bois then projects on the screen a page from the mag's June 1998 issue: There are 13 photos of various women, at least one of whom appears to be naked. Next, Du Bois shows us the page with Nina's ad and photo, in which Nina5279 is described as "24, 5' 3", 106 lbs, a university student, fluent in English and German, seeking a nice man with many interests" who is interested in a relationship. It is here that the real Nina "is better portrayed." Du Bois makes note of how she described herself as a university student, not the "doctor" that the Prosecution claims. "She's never been a doctor," although she did have "a medical background beyond Biology I."

Du Bois makes note of how she described herself as a university student, not the "doctor" that the Prosecution claims. "She's never been a doctor," although she did have "a medical background beyond Biology I." That's interesting.

It turns out that Nina wasn't the first person "of such ilk" whom Hans had met through the magazine. The first was Eleana, "more attractive than Nina," whom Hans "sent back" to Russia because she wasn't interested in having children. When Hans met Nina5279, they "hit it off" and Hans tells Nina all about Eleana, which led to Nina "putting into effect" her personal "five-year plan." (By "five-year plan," Du Bois is alluding to the former Soviet Union's penchant for formulating Five-Year Plans for the country's economic development. This was necessitated by the Soviet economy being a command economy of central planning, instead of a market economy based on supply and demand.)

Nina is unlikely to have had any fixed "Five-Year Plan." It seems she wanted to emigrate to the U.S. Her two years at high school in Providence, Rhode Island,[49,50] may have sold her on this idea. She probably would have been happy if the marriage with Hans had worked out, but it didn't. She waited until she had citizenship (May, 2004) to divorce him (filed May, 2004). On May 15, 2004, their fifth-year anniversary, Nina kicked him out of their house and told him she had arranged for him to live with his mother.[51]

True to her "five-year plan," Nina became pregnant within two months after meeting Hans. She was 5-months pregnant when they married. The wedding itself "is slightly less than bizarre, but close" because Sean Sturgeon (one of Hans' best friends who later became Nina's lover) showed up "in drag as the maid-of-honor." And so the marriage began "a marriage that begins in relative happiness and ends in vitriolic divorce," in which Nina "wasn't that much interested in Hans" but "tolerated him" because "that was part of her 5-year Plan."

Throughout their marriage - and after - Nina would make periodic trips back to Russia. After she separated from Hans in 2004, she went back for 3 months; just before she "went missing," she had been in Russia for 3 weeks.

Setting things up for her disappearance? She took Rory with her on this trip and (in defiance of a court order) arranged Russian citizenship for him.[52] She returns to the United States on July 23, 2006.[53]

"Not much is known about what Nina was doing in Russia." This much we do know "her father still works in a resort of the former KGB," the notorious secret police of the former Soviet Union, now renamed FSB (Federal Security Bureau). Du Bois darkly hints, "What Nina's connections with the KGB we don't know because we can't subpoena their records." But we must ask why someone from such a successful family and background was so desperate to get out of Russia as to advertise in "European Connections"?

It was in the latter part of their marriage while Hans was working for the U.S. Department of Justice, that Nina "took up with" Sean Sturgeon, "a sadomasochist" who had the word "rage" "carved, not tattooed, on his arm." Sean Sturgeon was also a druggie. But he was generous with Nina, providing her $8500 a month, which was why Nina could wear "designer clothes," such as the designer T-shirts she wears, "and lived a high life." Ultimately, after one-and-a-half years, Nina terminated the relationship. Her next boyfriend was Anthony who, like Sean, is "also a financially successful man" - all this "while Nina and Hans were fighting over their divorce and custody."

Nina began her three year extramarital sexual affair with Sturgeon, in the summer of 2001, shortly after the birth of her daughter, Niorlene.[54]

But Nina could not even be true to Anthony. After she went missing, Anthony had gone to her home and looked at her computer's Internet browsing history, hoping to find clues as to her whereabouts. As late as September 2, the day before she disappeared, she was "combing through Craig's List for new male liaisons." And she was doing this - downloading ads of "males with children" who want "liaisons with females with kids" - in the 45 minutes when Anthony left her home to run an errand! Du Bois then projects onto the screen pictures attached to a sample of the personal ads on Craig's List. The photos are dark and murky looking, but they appear pornographic. Some display genitals; one is of a female giving a man a BJ. Du Bois apologizes about the photos, but he is being disingenuous because he lets the photos linger on the screen. (This is where I think Du Bois crosses the line - he clearly is trying to taint the jury's image of Nina with these porno pics, although Nina does not appear in any of them.)

It is in her computer that "the true Nina" is found, says Du Bois. The photo-portrait of the lovely Madonna Nina is the image that she wants the world to have. "That's why she hung it over her bed." "This is the pattern of deception common in Nina's life." Du Bois then intimates rather ominously and archly, "Maybe she was seeing one of those (Craig's List) guys and something happened to her."

(2) Hans is innocent of murder:

Any defense attorney who has an unlikable person for a client has his work cut out of him. William Du Bois knows this. So he wisely chooses, as the second prong in his defense strategy, to admit this reality.

Right from the beginning of his Opening Statement, Du Bois says to the jury, "I can tell you from the beginning that Hans Reiser is an odd person. He is extremely intelligent if we mean by that" the kind of intelligence measured by IQ tests. He "may not be genius, but he's certainly one of the smartest people I've ever met."

In other words, Hans Reiser is the stereotypic geek. He invented the ReiserFS open-source filing system for computers, "the best in the world," which he "pretty much donated to Linux Operating System." Hans' invention became "a free system that anyone in the world can use free," which earned him much "applause from the community of geeks."

But although Hans may have a high IQ, he lacks emotional intelligence. Unlike Nina who is "a world class people's skills individual," Hans "is devoid of social skills" and "difficult to communicate with." Worse still, he is "irascible, self-centered," a "megalomaniac" who "has an inflated image of himself, almost as much as Nina's projected image of herself."

It is his egomania that explains that phone call he made to his mother Beverly on Sept. 23 in which he complained about Nina inventing illnesses and disorders about their son. Du Bois explains, "Hans is such an egomaniac, so self-centered and self-consumed" that "he doesn't even listen to people," including his mom. "The only thing that's important to Hans is what he thinks is important."

Hans also "is a lot paranoiac," even in the best circumstances as when he gives lectures to fellow "computer geeks who worship him." To Hans, "there's no such thing as a simple idea." Being paranoiac, he "asks what it means, what's the implications." Du Bois then refers to a TV show called "Big Bang Theory" and says that it "describes Hans perfectly." His paranoia and plain oddness mean that "no matter what Hans does, it's suspicious." In fact, Du Bois tells the jury that "I think you'll find that Hans ALWAYS acts suspiciously."

For example, the Prosecution has noted that on Sept. 5, 2 days after Nina's disappearance, Hans called her cell phone but left no message. Du Bois explains that Hans never leaves phone messages for Nina because in the early days of their divorce, his messages were "used against him." Then there is Hans' seemingly suspicious response to Nina's best friend Ellen's phone call that evening. Ellen said that she knows Nina had gone to his house on Sunday, Sept. 3. Hans' response was "I need to talk with my attorney." Du Bois explains that Hans knows Ellen doesn't like him, because she is Nina's best friend. So when Ellen says that she knows Nina had gone to Hans' house and that Hans was the last person to see her, Hans thought Ellen was "up to something." When he said, "I need to talk with my attorney," he meant his divorce attorney.

This "explanation" seems to be designed to hide the fact that Oakland police had just conducted a phone interview with Reiser and thus his "I need to talk with my attorney." is perfectly understandable.[16,17]

Then there are the two books on murder he purchased at Barnes and Noble on Sept. 8, 5 days after Nina's disappearance. Du Bois explains that the day before, Sept. 7, Hans "walked into" Du Bois's office where he was told that the police always regards the husband as the prime suspect in missing wife cases. So Hans decided to inform himself on police "excesses" in homicide investigation by buying the books. Nor is there anything sinister about Hans paying cash for his purchases. Hans wasn't trying to hide anything by paying with cash because he keeps all his receipts!

As for the counter-surveillance moves that Hans made vis-a-vis the police following him-driving fast, then slowly; exiting and quickly reentering the highway-Du Bois explains that, due to his business involvement in Russia, Hans "is convinced that he's being followed by the Russian mafia and the FSB (i.e., the KGB)."

His paranoia also explains his strange behavior concerning the Honda CRX. Du Bois says Hans' mother Beverly has testified that, after Nina disappeared, Hans was sleeping in the CRX's front seat. That was why he removed the passenger seat - for more room. He also "experimented with trying to live in a storage locker," which explains the flyers from the Manteca storage facility.

(3) Prosecution cannot be trusted:

The third prong in the Defense's strategy is to introduce in the jurors skepticism about the Prosecution. Du Bois tries to do that by saying the following:

* DA Paul Hora has told the jury that Hans has a black belt in judo and that one of the skills in judo is "the art of strangling." Du Bois, very logically, asks if Hans indeed is this "master strangler," why was there no (significant amount of) blood in the Exeter residence? Those bloody smears on the wooden post in the living room "were left there for a long time." The stains (on the stuffsack) are not even "evident" except under the "special light" used by the forensic experts. (The blood on the pillar was quite visible.)

* It is precisely because there's no (significant amount of) blood, that explains why the police did not find any cuts, bruises, or scratches on Hans when they detained him on Sept. 28. Given that, how did his DNA get onto the pole and the sleeping bag stuffsack? Actually, his and Nina's DNA could well be because when they first married, they lived in the Exeter house and slept in the sleeping bag for a year.

* Nor is Hora credible in his account of the police chase on Sept. 18, specifically the account by one police officer of Hans "sprinting uphill" toward the Exeter house. Pointing to the defendant, Du Bois reminds the jury of the image of Hans captured by Barnes and Noble's security camera. "He was fat" - too fat to "sprint" up Shepherd Canyon. "You'd have to be in marathon shape to do that."

The police account of Sept. 18, is partially fabricated.[57]

* Then there is the matter of Hans' cell phone when the police detained and searched him on Sept. 28. Hora has said that the battery was removed from the cell phone - just as the battery was removed from Nina's cell phone when her car was found 6 days after her disappearance. Unlike Nina's cell phone, which was photographed by the police, clearly showing that its battery had been removed, Du Bois warns the jury that "you won't see a picture of his (Han's) cell phone with the battery out. Instead, the court saw "only a picture of his phone." Du Bois then outright accuses Prosecution of lying: "that's an attempt to make this case fit 'the glass slipper'."

The prosecution is more than willing to lie about any aspect of the case, if they feel they can get away with it.

Removing the battery of a cellphone stops it being tracked. However, turning it off, does the same. Jody Citizen, of Verizon Wireless, testified that you can't be located when the phone is turned off.[55] All the interest in batteries being removed from cellphones, revolves around the mistaken idea, that turning it off, is not sufficient to prevent it being traced. Apparently, this mistaken idea is due to Nina.[56] Isn't it strange that this mistaken idea, should feature so prominently in the case. It is almost like Nina is directing the action.

* Du Bois also argues that, contrary to what Prosecution claims, there is a witness. In Hora's Opening Statement, which Du Bois amiably but archly contends should more accurately be called an opening "argument," Hora has spent "so much time" telling the jury that they must not lend stock to any testimony by Hans and Nina's son Rory because his young age makes him unreliable as a witness (Rory was 6 when Nina disappeared; (He was 25 days from being 7.) he is now 8). Hora has said that Rory gave erroneous and conflicting accounts of that critical day. But Du Bois maintains that, despite the efforts of the police and child protective services to "get Rory to say something against his father," Rory actually testified "clearly and unequivocally" in the Preliminary Hearings that he saw his mother leave the Exeter house that day. More than that, Rory was precise. He said that, as she was leaving, Nina "gave him a hug" near the front door, with Hans standing "two feet" away. After she left, Hans and Rory went downstairs. Rory played computer games, while Hans was nearby in the same room. That night, the boy slept in Hans' bed.

In other words, Du Bois is saying that not only did Hans not kill Nina in the Exeter house because their son saw her leaving ("no amount of judo training can project through a wooden front door to the outside"), Hans also had no opportunity to kill her AFTER she left. Between 2:30 pm (when Nina left Exeter) and 6 pm (when Ellen reported Nina to be missing), Hans was downstairs in the same room with Rory. That is why the Prosecution wants the jury to dismiss the boy as "unreliable" This is when Du Bois makes the startling announcement that Rory will testify next Tuesday.

Of course, there was another witness to events that day, Niorline (then aged 5). The defense has not called Niorline.

Court will resume Tuesday, November 13, at 9:45 am.


[1] Nina Reiser's best friend, Ellen Doren, lives on Capricorn.
[2] "She was planning to go shopping at Berkeley Bowl that afternoon," said Anthony Zografos, her boyfriend. "Then she was going to go to her friend's."
[3] Judge Larry Goodman,... may have caught it, because the jurist put his head in his hand and stared directly at the defense attorney, as if waiting to see whether Du Bois would go any further with the whole Capricorn thing. He didn't.
[4] At the police station, they photographed his body for signs of scratches or bruises. None were found.
[5] "Other than those acne or a scratch, you didn't find any other marks that indicate a struggle that day?" defense attorney William DuBois asked Grant, who was under cross examination. "Correct sir." ... He later added that "There were some small marks, but nothing of significance."
[6] Hans was taken to the PD, had his picture taken ... and examined. No scratches or bruises were found on his body.
[7] And DNA testing cannot determine the age of blood stains.
[8] Cavness acknowledged.., that DNA testing can't confirm when bloodstains are deposited.
[9] Under cross examination from DuBois, she recalled that when she returned home from the Burning Man festival the weekend Nina went missing, a wood pillar in the house with smudges on it looked the same as it did when she left.
[10] She said that her son told her that he and Nina had a disagreement over who was supposed to have the kids that weekend and that they "decided to share them and split it up."
[11] Instead, Porter said, Nina Reiser's friend, Ellen Doren, came to get the children in the middle of the afternoon.
[12] Ellen Doren, came to the school at about 2:30 p.m.
[13] But at about 5 p.m. that day,.. Hans Reiser showed up at Adventure Time,..
[14] Doren picked up the children at 5:15 p.m. after the after-school program got Hans Reiser's permission for her to do so.
[15] At 5:04 p.m. that day, an eight-second call was made on his (Hans Reiser's) cell phone to Nina Reiser's cell phone, the phone records showed.
[16] Jordan said police spoke to Hans Reiser by phone on Sept. 5, two days after Nina Reiser was last seen. Jordan described the conversation as "an interview, not an interrogation."
[17] Jordan said police spoke to Hans Reiser by phone on Sept. 5, two days after Nina Reiser was last seen. This was later changed to: Oakland police talked to Hans Reiser on Sept. 5, two days after Nina Reiser was last seen alive, but haven't talked to him since then.
[18] On cross-examination, Potter said that when Doren arrived, she told school employees that Nina Reiser, 31, was out of town. But the missing woman's daughter was with Doren at the time, and Doren made the remark "for the benefit of the child," Potter said.
[19] On Sept. 10, 2006, a week after Nina disappeared, Hans called her from the Fresh Choice restaurant at the Bayfair Mall in San Leandro,.. She testified that she took the hybrid and parked it outside a friend's house in Oakland.
[20] She then rented a car and used it for about a week. Police later seized her hybrid. She then rented a second car from a different rental-car company.
[21] Oakland police tailed Hans and his mother as they went to a Budget Rent-a-Car in Hayward on Sept. 21, according to testimony. "Do you know why Hans was renting a car there?" Hora asked. "Well, I assume it's because the police had the CRX and he needed a car," Palmer said.
[22] Officer Guerrero testified that on Sept. 18, he and a team of surveillance officers, including one in an airplane, trailed Hans Reiser, 42, as he was driven by a male companion to several locations.
[23] Sanchez was in an airplane surveilling Hans Reiser on Sept. 18, 2006, assisting ground surveillance units.
[24] According to a probable cause statement in the case, Hans Reiser and a male friend "appeared to be conducting counter surveillance" to avoid police by driving at varying speeds, turning down small quiet residential streets and making abrupt stops.
[25] Mishin testified that he had "no idea" at the time that Oakland police were secretly watching them. "They did a good job," Mishin said.
[26] "Did (Child Protective Services) say to you that they wouldn't let you have the children at the house if Hans was there?" Du Bois asked. "That's true," Palmer replied. Du Bois asked if it was after that CPS call that Hans said he was living in the car, and Palmer said, "That's right."
[27] Before his arrest, Child Protective Services, the mom testified, said he could not live in the Oakland hills house with his children.
[28] Palmer said she doesn't remember where her son stayed in the few days after Nina disappeared. She said she was told Hans was sleeping in the CRX by Child Protective Services. That made him a poor candidate for getting custody of the children, officials told her. Palmer said she never saw her son sleeping in the CRX.
[29] Du Bois says Hans' mother Beverly has testified that, after Nina disappeared, Hans was sleeping in the CRX's front seat.
[30] "Were you aware that Hans was living in his car?" DuBois asked the mother. "Yes."
[31] The defendant said he removed the seat to make room for him to sleep.
[32] Reiser's defense attorney, William DuBois, has said that Reiser removed the front seat because he began to sleep in the car,..
[33] But other neighbors say they saw him spraying water off of something in the driveway for half-an-hour shortly after Nina went missing.
[34] Stabb, however, said he did not have direct vision of the driveway, and could not say for sure whether a car was being washed.
[35]"Even in the distance," Stabb said, "I could see he was dressed for winter ... a hunting jacket or something. I thought, Jesus." The next morning, Stabb said, the driveway was still filthy and covered with pine needles.
[36] McGothigan said he and Palmer,.. had attended the Burning Man festival in Nevada's Black Rock Desert. The two returned from the festival about 2 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2006,..
[37] I thought it was kind of strange. ... 'What are you doing, washing the driveway?'"
[38] To support his change of heart, Du Bois asked Grant if he knew the book includes a chapter about police planting evidence.
[39] Yet, as Hans Reiser's attorney William DuBois pointed out, the books also discuss how police plant evidence to ensure victory in a case and, in the case of "Homicide," paints police department homicide units in an unfavorable light.
[40] His lawyer said the books contain chapters on how police plant evidence and set up murder scenes.
[41] "He's an intelligent man. He's going to want to know what the police were up to," he said. "What's he supposed to be doing, reading comic books?"
[42] "Who offered to financially help you out?" "CBS." "Did CBS actually pay you?" "Yes." "How much money?" "$20,000."
[43] But as that was happening, another officer saw the defendant running up windy Snake Boulevard toward his house, Guerrero said.
[44] In another wire-tapped call Sept. 19, 2006 Hans asks her to pick him up at the Mormon Temple in the Oakland hills because "I want to talk to you about something."
[45] Even so, Cavness confirmed to Tamor that the Honda contained food and drinks -- albeit with both full and empty containers -- as well as toiletry items, a sleeping bag and reading material.
[46] Regarding the blood on the sleeping bag, Palmer testified that her son and daughter in law slept at her Oakland hills house often. "Did they ever use a sleeping bag when they slept there?" "I think so," Palmer replied.
[47] He says he had two identical sleeping bags, and he used them on camping trips and as a comforter on his bed while he was married to Nina. "Did you ever have sex on them?" DuBois asks. "Yes." "More than once?" DuBois continues. "Yes."
[48] The day before the three Truckee ATM withdrawals, Reiser went inside three Bay Area Patelco branches and withdrew $1,000 three times, Morasch testified. He said the California-based credit union limits its members to $1,000 in cash withdrawals per day, per branch.
[49] From 1990-91, Nina Reiser attended Lincoln School in Providence, R.I., her mother said. She was 16 at the time.
[50] Palmer said she met Nina at the airport when she arrived in the United States from Russia. She told Hora she had a vague memory of Nina attending high school in Rhode Island.
[51] Reiser said that on May 15, 2004, their fifth-year anniversary, Nina kicked him out of the house they lived in on Jordan Street near 35th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard in Oakland.
[52] Nina Reiser obtained Russian citizenship for her daughter two years ago and did the same for her son in July, two months before she disappeared, Du Bois said,..
[53] It appeared that Nina Reiser used her American passport to enter the U.S. on July 23, 2006, Levicoff said,..
[54] Palmer said the couple grew apart when Nina began having an extramarital affair with Hans' best friend soon after the couple's daughter was born in May 2001.
[55] "And you can be located when they are making a call, is that correct?" DuBois asked Caniglia. "Yes." "But when the phone is turned off, you can't locate them, is that right?" "True."
[56] Turning back to the cell phone and what he said Nina had recommended, he said, "I think the idea was that the police could trace my cell phone and merely turning it off wasn't enough."
[57] The Hans Reiser Murder Trial. Timeline and Analysis.