THE HANS REISER TRIAL.
Linux Programmer, Hans Reiser, Facing Murder Trial -- UPDATE: Postponed
By David Kravets on November 05, 2007 | 1:25:00 PM
OAKLAND, California -- Did Hans Reiser, the prominent Linux open source programmer, murder his wife, Nina Reiser?
Hans Reiser, 43, whose Namesys company was responsible for the widely-used open source Reiser3 and Reiser4 file systems, faces a murder trial here Monday that has all the elements of a soap opera -- divorce, deceit, confessions, children and even the foreign nation of Russia.
Reiser, who maintains his innocence, is accused of killing his estranged wife in Oakland in September, 2006, after she dropped off their two young children to stay with the computer programmer. The two were involved in a nasty divorce -- she had a restraining order out against him. She is accused of having an affair with one of his associates.
As first reported by Wired, that man, Sean Sturgeon, told the authorities that he was a serial killer, but did not kill Nina Reiser -- statements that aren't likely to go before the jury here. Sturgeon has not been arrested in connection to his confession.
Nina Reiser's minivan, full of groceries, turned up days after she dropped off the kids. No body has been found. But the authorities charged Reiser, saying they found traces of Nina's blood in Hans Reiser's small Honda CRX. The passenger seat of the vehicle was missing. Authorities also discovered Reiser had two books on murder investigations, and when he was arrested he had $9,000 cash and his passport.
The Oakland couple's two young children are living with their grandmother in Russia, where Hans Reiser met his wife in 1999 when he traveled in hopes of securing a bride from a marriage service. The defense speculates that Nina Reiser is perhaps alive, having fled to her home country.
Reiser's file system is the underlying method by which the computer organizes data on a hard drive. Jailed without bail, Reiser faces a 25-year-to-life sentence if convicted.
THREAT LEVEL will be providing frequent updates Monday from Alameda County Superior Court.
Update: The case prosecutor just emerged from a brief closed-door court session and told reporters that opening arguments have been postponed. The case is now scheduled to resume at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow (Tuesday).
Reiser Attorney Says Defending Linux Programmer 'A Challenging Thing'
By David Kravets on November 05, 2007 | 4:24:21 PM
OAKLAND, California -- The defense attorney for Hans Reiser -- the murder suspect and prominent Linux open source programmer -- said Monday he was "apprehensive" that his client wanted to testify on his own behalf.
Reiser, 43, is accused of killing his wife, Nina, last year as the separated couple endured a bitter divorce. "Intellect is not always an ally," defense attorney William DuBois said of his client, whose Namesys company was responsible for the widely-used open source Reiser3 and Reiser4 file systems.
DuBois said Hans Reiser has memorized thousands of pages of pretrial court documents, and can cite a page by memory -- making defending him "a challenging thing."
"It would be easy if he didn't testify," added DuBois, who was flanked by more than a dozen print, online and television reporters in the hallway outside Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry J. Goodman's courtroom here. DuBois said he was wishful that Reiser's testimony will be "in a manner that everybody can understand."
DuBois said the allegations against his client, who enrolled at UC Berkeley at age 15, make for an "extremely weak case."
Hans Reiser, who is being jailed without bail, said he did not kill his estranged wife of Oakland in September, 2006. He maintains that his 31-year-old wife may have gone back to her home country Russia.
The woman's van was found in September, 2006, in Oakland after she brought the couple's two young children to stay with Hans Reiser. DuBois suggested that the husband might be able to establish that his estranged wife left Oakland, eluded detection and ended up back in her home country -- where she and her husband connected through a "mail order" bride introduction.
"She could be in what was formerly known as the Soviet Union," DuBois told reporters.
Opening statements by prosecutor Paul Hora were postponed from Monday to Tuesday after a lengthy and private in-chambers conference between Hora, DuBois, the judge and Hans Reiser. Neither Hora nor DuBois would comment on that hearing.
Afterward, Reiser, DuBois and co-counsel Richard Tamor privately discussed their case at the defendant's table. Reiser's dark suit contrasted with his ghost-white skin as he peppered his attorneys with questions, read documents and took notes.
THREAT LEVEL will update from Alameda County Superior Court with developments throughout the trial.
See Also: Hans Reiser: Once a Linux Visionary, Now Accused of Murder
Prosecutor: Linux Engineer Reiser Abused Son, Murdered Wife
By David Kravets on November 06, 2007 | 3:14:52 PMCategories: Hans Reiser Trial
OAKLAND, California -- Hans Reiser, the popular open-source Linux engineer, traumatized his 5-year-old son with violent video games and horror movies, prosecutor Paul Hora told jurors in the opening of Reiser's murder trial.
Reiser, wearing a dark suit at the defendant's table, became agitated as the prosecutor recounted to jurors those child-abuse accusations that his wife, Nina, made in divorce court three years ago. All the while, Reiser kept peppering his lawyer with questions whispered into his ear, and the lawyer at one point slumped his forehead to the table during the first hours of trial that is expected to see dozens of witnesses and last several weeks.
The five-woman, seven-man jury listened intently to prosecutor Hora, who told the panel that Reiser, 43, murdered his 31-year-old wife and could never forget what she wrote in that divorce filing. "Like one of those dogs with lock jaw," Hora said, "he never let go."
Defense attorney William Dubois told reporters outside of court during a break that those child-abuse accusations were false. "He worships his children," DuBois said, and added his client could not have murdered his wife because "he never would have deprived his children of his mother."
The gallery here was overflowing with about 50 onlookers, many of them journalists, lawyers and staffers of the Alameda County Superior Court. Reiser, facing a possible life sentence, often took notes, studied documents and rarely looked at jurors.
At one point, Hora sauntered to the defendant's table. With a heated voice, he declared the last time Nina was seen, in Oakland on Sept. 3, 2006, "was at this man's doorstep!" The prosecutor declared the case a "classic" by which the "estranged husband murders his estranged wife."
Hora said the woman, the mother of two young children, had an affair with Reiser's best friend. "There's no way to sugarcoat it," Hora said. "Nina ran away from Hans with Hans' best friend. She shouldn't have done it. It was wrong."
He suggested Reiser, whose Namesys company was responsible for producing the widely used open source Reiser3 and Reiser4 file systems for Linux, might have dumped his wife in the wilderness near his boyhood home in the Oakland hills. No body has been found.
The prosecutor decried as "absurd" suggestions from Reiser that she left Oakland to return to Russia, where she was born and where Hans and Nina met in 1998.
The former couple has two young children, Hora said. "She would never, ever let them live a life not knowing when she was going to come home,... whether she was alive or dead," Hora told panelists.
Hora is also expected to tell jurors later in the day about the woman's blood being found in his car -- in which the front passenger seat is now missing. Also, when Hans Reiser was arrested weeks after the woman's disappearance, the husband was found with his passport, $9,000 in cash and with two books about homicide investigations.
Hora is expected to continue his opening remarks throughout the day."Something happened to Nina. Something terrible. She's dead," Hora told the jury.
DuBois, Reiser's defense attorney, is expected to outline his client's defense here Wednesday.
Rift Brewing Between Linux Engineer Reiser, His Attorney as First Day of Murder Trial Ends
By David Kravets on November 06, 2007 | 8:33:09 PM
OAKLAND, California -- As Linux engineer Hans Reiser's murder trial ended its first day here Tuesday, the rift between the defendant and his attorney appeared to be fracturing even more.
William DuBois, who is Reiser's chief defense attorney, was clearly agitated by his client as proceedings finished up about 4:30 p.m. Pacific. "My client was once again interrupting me," DuBois told Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman, who was listening to DuBois' motion in a bid to exclude evidence from jurors.
DuBois also told the judge, outside the jury's presence, that he hoped Reiser, who has pleaded not guilty, "keeps his insistences to a minimum."
Moments earlier, the Alameda County jury was dismissed for the day, after hours of opening statements from prosecutor Paul Hora. He told panelists Reiser was guilty of killing his estranged wife in Oakland on Sept. 3, 2006 in a bid to quickly end their divorce and custody dispute over their two young children.
The rift between DuBois and Reiser came a day after DuBois told reporters that defending the self-proclaimed genius was "a difficult thing."
After the jury left, Reiser wanted to say something to the judge who was leaving to chambers. "I'm not listening to the defendant," Judge Goodman said and left.
Afterward, DuBois and Reiser were discussing strategy at the defense table, and the exchanges appeared heated. As the gallery of dozens of onlookers emptied here, DuBois slammed his pen on Reiser's notes, and looked as if he was about to leave the courtroom.
The pair continued the exchange briefly until an armed bailiff escorted Reiser to a holding pen as DuBois looked the other way. Reiser, wearing a dark suit and being held without bail, peered to the gallery where his mother, Beverly Palmer, was sitting earlier. She had already left.
Moments later, DuBois quipped with the bailiff that he might be better off defending Reiser if he was kept outside the courtroom.
"Put him in there and put in closed-circuit TV," DuBois joked.
In a brief, one-on-one interview with THREAT LEVEL, DuBois said the 43-year-old Reiser, the Linux programmer who developed the widely used Reiser3 and Reiser4 file systems, constantly interrupted him during the day -- making it hard for the attorney to plot his defense.
"He wants to give me his 150 ideas on everything that has been suggested by the evidence," DuBois said.
Prosecutor Hora, wrapping up the first of what could be two days or more of opening statements, told jurors that Reiser was unraveling in the days leading to his wife's disappearance.
Two weeks before, Hans Reiser e-mailed a local politician complaining that the Alameda County children's court system was unfair because his wife was awarded the majority of custody of the former couple's two kids, Hora said. The e-mail said that fixing the system was "more important than my two decades in computer science," according to the communication, which was displayed to jurors on a large-screen television prompt.
A week before the 31-year-old woman went missing, Hans Reiser appeared in a local Oakland court facing contempt charges for allegedly failing to pay his childrens' medical expenses, Hora said. On Aug. 30, 2006, three days before his wife's disappearance, Reiser placed an angry call to the county, which was accusing him of being more than $12,000 behind in child support, Hora told jurors.
And just two days before wife Nina Reiser disappeared, the former couple fought over who would get the kids that Memorial Day weekend. Family law lawyers were called, and the stalemate ended in a draw, when the two agreed to share them that three-day weekend, Hora told jurors.
As scheduled, Nina Reiser brought the two kids to Hans Reiser's Oakland house shortly after 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 3, 2006.
"That's when Nina disappears from the face of the earth," Hora told the jury.
Reiser says he is not guilty, and claims his wife fled their bitter marriage to her home country Russia.
Prosecutor: Linux Engineer Reiser Coaxed Son to Cover up Mom's Murder -- Update
By David Kravets on November 07, 2007 | 4:07:42 PM
Prosecutor OAKLAND, California -- Hans Reiser, the Linux engineer who is a black belt in judo, might have strangled his estranged wife to death and possibly coaxed his 6-year-old son to help cover it up, a prosecutor told jurors here Wednesday during the second day of Reiser's murder trial.
"There are a lot of different chokes," said prosecutor Paul Hora, as he explained the art of judo. "It's fast. It's quiet. It's deadly."
Reiser, 43, is accused of killing his wife, Nina, last year after the 31-year-old woman brought the former couple's two children over to her estranged husband's Exeter Drive house in Oakland.
"We know Nina didn't leave the Exeter residence alive," Hora told the 12-member jury.
Reiser's company Namesys was responsible for producing popular open-source file systems. Reiser has pleaded not guilty and maintains his estranged wife, who had an affair with Reiser's best friend, left the country to flee a bitter divorce.
Jurors appeared hypnotized by Hora's every word as he described several interviews the authorities had with the couple's 6-year-old son in the days and months following the woman's disappearance Sept. 3, 2006.
During one interview with the boy, according to Hora, the child said "I'm not telling the police anything about my dad." The prosecutor added that the boy said "The police might try to track him down."
The interviewer, Hora said, told the authorities the boy believed that because "My dad said so."
Still, Hora told the jury that the credibility of the boy was questionable. "He's just not reliable because he's so little," Hora said. He speculated that the boy's answers had "been influenced."
He said the boy, who is expected to testify later, was shaky on the details. Or, Hora said, "He's intentionally not revealing them."
Hora's comments came during the second day of his opening remarks to the jury. William DuBois, Reiser's defense attorney, told reporters outside the courtroom that he would tell jurors "a lot of things that explain what happened."
DuBois is expected to outline his defense to jurors on Thursday. Trial is expected to last months.
Hora, the prosecutor, told the jury that in June, the young boy drew a picture of a staircase of the Exeter Drive house and told mental health professionals he had a vision of somebody carrying something big down the stairs the night his mother went missing. "I was scared. I started shaking. I closed my eyes as tight as I could," Hora said, recounting the boy's account.
Hora told jurors that perhaps the boy was telling the truth, or "maybe it was his imagination."
DuBois told reporters: "It's an illusion. It's a dream. It has nothing to do with the case."
The boy and his younger sister are living with their grandmother in Russia, where Nina and Hans met in 1998.
DuBois and Reiser's relationship is anything but cordial. The two are often seen verbally fighting one another at the defense table, even as Hora is outlining his case to jurors.
"There's abrasion there," DuBois told reporters. "Hans has an abrasive personality."
DuBois (depicted above in a brown coat at the defense table) said his client (seated at DuBois' right) was in low spirits as his trial gets underway. "It's a little bit of a downer to be on trial for murder -- a murder you did not commit."
THREAT LEVEL is providing gavel-to-gavel coverage. Click here for previous trial posts.
Trial is resuming now....
Hora ended the day's session by telling jurors that the defendant's small Honda Civic went missing for two weeks, until authorities discovered it after a lengthy manhunt two weeks after Nina Reiser vanished.
"When they looked inside the car, it's missing the front passenger seat," Hora said. "It's gone. It's not there."
In an impromptu news conference outside court, defense attorney DuBois said Reiser had removed the seat because his client was in financial straits and was living in the 1988 vehicle.
Trial resumes here Thursday....
Reiser is a 'Killer,' Prosecutor Proclaims; Judge Denies Mistrial in Day 3 of Linux Engineer's Murder Trial
By David Kravets on November 08, 2007 | 4:02:49 PM
OAKLAND, California -- The prosecutor in the Hans Reiser murder trial concluded nearly three days of opening statements, urging jurors Thursday to convict the star Linux engineer on trial here for allegedly killing his wife.
"There is really one simple explanation for the whole thing," Alameda County prosecutor Paul Hora told the jury as he finished up.
Strutting to the defendant's table, Hora pointed to Reiser and raised his voice: "And that's this man killed her. That is the one very simple explanation for everything!"
The 43-year-old Reiser, wearing the same dark coat he donned when Hora began outlining his case on Tuesday, reared back in his chair and stared at the prosecutor, who for the first time labeled Reiser "a killer."
Reiser has pleaded not guilty and faces up to a life sentence if convicted. He claims his 31-year-old wife abandoned his children and perhaps fled the United States rather than continue enduring a nasty court fight.
No body has been discovered. The authorities said they found traces of her blood in the husband's Oakland residence and in his car, whose front seat Hans Reiser removed following the woman's disappearance.
After the jury broke for lunch, Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman denied a motion by William DuBois, Reiser's chief counsel, to declare a mistrial. DuBois said a recording of a phone conversation of Reiser and his mother, and other evidence Hora displayed to the jury was inadmissible.
DuBois, in pretrial motions, had tried to keep the phone call and the contents of Reiser's fanny pack from the case, but the judge let it in and reminded DuBois of that when denying a mistrial.
Earlier, Hora played a 10-minute recording of that tapped phone call between Reiser and his mother, Beverly Palmer, taped days after Nina Reiser's disappearance. Hans Reiser was heard on the tape complaining to his mother that the courts had unfairly stripped him of legal custody of his two children.
"He offers 10 minutes of reasons why Nina is dead," Hora told panelists. All the while, Palmer, seated in the gallery, sat with her eyes closed while Hora played the tape. The 12 jurors followed along with a transcript, and the three-dozen onlookers in the gallery struggled to hear the recording, which at times became inaudible.
DuBois claimed the recording was the fruit of an illegal wiretap. He also claimed authorities wrongly searched Reiser some two weeks after his wife disappeared, despite him not being arrested until days later.
Hora showed jurors the contents of what was discovered in Reiser's fanny pack. One thing that stood out was a press release Reiser had crafted titled "Statement by Hans Reiser." That three-page memo reiterated Reiser's disdain for the Alameda County family law courts and declared that Nina Reiser was mentally ill.
DuBois is expected to make his opening remarks later Thursday. Reiser's company, Namesys, produced popular open-source computer file systems.
Hans Reiser Murder Trial: Nina5729, Where Are You?
By David Kravets on November 08, 2007 | 8:44:23 PM
OAKLAND, California -- Nina5729, where are you?
That's the unanswered question jurors were left wondering as three days of opening remarks concluded here Thursday in the murder trial of Linux superstar Hans Reiser, who the authorities are fingering for allegedly killing Nina Reiser, the programmer's estranged wife.
During his opening statements, the husband's attorney, William DuBois, immediately castigated the wife, telling jurors there was a dark side to the Russian woman who advertised herself in an Eastern European mail-order-bride catalogue as Nina5729 -- "Seeking a nice man with many interests for a serious relationship."
The husband did not kill her, DuBois told jurors. She purposely disappeared, as part of her "five-year plan" that commenced when she got pregnant by Hans quickly after he chose her from the "European Connections" bride catalogue.
"She put into effect the five-year plan," DuBois said. He often referred to her as "Nina5729."
In 2004, DuBois said, she separated with Hans after five years of marriage, the amount of time necessary to become a U.S. citizen. "She tolerated him because that was part of the five-year plan," DuBois said.
While noting that Hans Reiser "was difficult to get along with," DuBois added: "I can understand wanting to get rid of him at the earliest point in time."
Along with jurors, the four dozen men and women in the gallery, seated on creaky movie-theater-styled wooden seats, were left wondering: "Nina5729, where are you?"
During his two-hour presentation, DuBois never said.
Instead, he trashed the woman, telling jurors that one of the woman's boyfriends was a lucky member of the "key clubbers" -- men that got a key to her Oakland apartment she shared with her two young children.
Outside court, DuBois elaborated briefly. "I don't know how this intrigue works," said DuBois, suggesting the woman is back in Russia or elsewhere as part of a Russian disappearing scam.
He said a former Russian KGB agent is expected to testify about such schemes. In court, he told jurors Nina Reiser's father is a Russian doctor at a resort frequented by former Russian spies.
Earlier in the day and for the previous two days, Alameda County prosecutor Paul Hora told the 12-member jury that Hans Reiser was "a killer" who murdered the 31-year-old mother of his young children when the woman brought the kids to his Oakland home Sept. 3, 2006.
There is neither a body, nor a murder weapon discovered. Forensic evidence linking the husband to a murder is a speck of the woman's blood in the Hans Reiser's house and on a sleeping bag cover in his car, Hora said.
Hora speculated that the husband, a black belt in judo, may have choked his wife at the Oakland residence the day she went missing as part of his plan to end bitter divorce and child-custody proceedings. The couple's young son, however, testified at an earlier hearing that he saw his mom leave the house the day she vanished, and that he and his father began playing video games.
"No amount of judo training can project outside the walls of the house into the car that was driving away," DuBois said. He described Reiser as a "rock star" in "dotcom-dom" for developing popular open-source computer file systems from his company Namesys.
The seriousness of the case briefly took a back seat when images of porn kept popping up on a large prompt the attorneys were using to display photos, documents and other evidence.
DuBois was showing jurors Craigslist online dating advertisements Nina was viewing days before her disappearance. One was filled with pornographic images. DuBois' co-counsel, Richard Tamor, kept fumbling with the computer controls and the image popped up several times throughout DuBois' oration.
"You need to lose that picture," Superior Court Judge Larry Freeman quipped. To laughter, he told the jury: "Sometimes low-tech is better than high-tech."
Testimony begins here Tuesday.
Reiser's 8-Year-Old Son Testifies, Provides Conflicting Testimony Of Mother's Last Sighting
By David Kravets on November 13, 2007 | 4:09:45 PM
OAKLAND, California -- Testimony opened here Tuesday in the murder trial of Linux superstar Hans Reiser when the open-source engineer's 8-year-old son took the stand -- a sometimes timid boy who provided conflicting testimony about the last day his mother was seen alive.
Speaking in a monotone voice, the dark-haired boy lurched forward from the witness chair when answering questions from Alameda County prosecutor Paul Hora. The boy, who just flew in from Russia where he is living with his grandparents and younger sister, looked bug-eyed and scared when he was first escorted to the courtroom filled with about four dozen onlookers.
Hora called the boy to recount the September 2006 day his mother, Nina Reiser, vanished after she dropped him and his sister at their father's Oakland house for the weekend.
The boy, who speaks fluent Russian and English, told jurors that he did not remember what happened when his mother said she was leaving the father's house after the drop-off. She had briefly come inside, the boy testified.
That testimony conflicted with what he said during a hearing earlier this year, when a judge concluded there was enough evidence for the father to stand trial on allegations he killed his Russian wife to end a nasty divorce and child custody battle.
During the earlier hearing, the child said he saw his mom leave the house and he and his father and sister went downstairs to play video games. On the stand Tuesday, he told jurors he could not recall what happened after his mother announced she was leaving.
"Do you remember what happened?" prosecutor Hora asked.
"I don't remember," the boy replied. He said his memory of the day in question was "not so good."
"What's the next thing you remember happening?" Hora asked.
"Nothing," the boy answered.
During a recess, defense attorney William DuBois was outraged. He told reporters that the grandparents were brainwashing the boy to change his story.
"They've been influencing him," DuBois said. "They're influencing him to hate his father."
At times on the stand, the boy closed both eyes, rubbing the left one to the point that Judge Larry Goodman ordered a brief recess so the boy could compose himself. A Russian-speaking mental health worker sat with the boy on the witness stand, often stroking his side and at one point, holding his hand to the loud objection from DuBois.
Earlier in the boy's testimony, he told jurors he called his mother, "Nina" and father, "Papa" or "Hans."
"Can you tell me about Nina? Tell me about your mom. What's she like?" Hora asked.
"Do you love your mom?"
"Do you love your dad?" Hora added.
The boy said he loved his father "at that moment" when his mother dropped off him and his sister.
A few questions later, Hora asked: "Is it different now, at this moment?"
"I don't know."
At times, the boy looked to his father, who at one point began making hand gestures to him while telling his boy, "I love you." The judge ordered the father to stop addressing the witness.
The boy is expected to continue testimony throughout the afternoon and could come under cross examination as early as Wednesday.
Hans Reiser is the 43-year-old founder of Namesys, the Oakland company that won acclaim in the open source community for its file systems. He has pleaded not guilty.
Authorities said he killed his wife, 31 years old at the time, perhaps by choking her. The authorities say he dumped the body, which has never been found.
Defense attorney DuBois, in an opening statement to jurors on Thursday, said the woman, originally from Russia, abandoned her family as part of a "five-year plan." That plan was to marry an American, get pregnant, become a citizen and disappear.
Son Says He Saw Linux Guru Carrying 'Somebody' Wrapped in a Bag 'Like a Ball'
By David Kravets on November 13, 2007 | 7:50:51 PM
OAKLAND, California -- The young son of Linux guru Hans Reiser resumed testimony at his father's murder trial after a lunch break Tuesday. The 8-year-old boy told jurors he saw his father carrying "somebody" rolled up "like a ball" inside a bag down the stairs of his father's Oakland house the night his mother vanished.
The boy got on the ground in a ball to suggest how a body might have been in the bag. All 12 jurors, hypnotized by his every word, craned their neck to see the dark-haired boy below them on the carpet in Alameda County Superior Court here. "Because it was tight like that, like a ball," he said.
The boy recently had drawn a picture of that event, which was shown to jurors.
"What does this whole picture mean?" Prosecutor Paul Hora asked the boy.
"How Hans is going down the stairs with somebody," he replied.
He said he never saw who was inside the bag, and said he was in bed at the time and it was dark.
His mother, Nina Reiser, then 31, went missing Sept. 3, 2006 after she left the boy and his younger sister at their father's Oakland house for the weekend. The woman, who has not been heard of since, and her husband were enduring a bitter divorce and were fighting over their children's custody.
Defense attorney William DuBois disputed the boy's account.
"Why would he want to carry it down where the children are?" DuBois asked reporters during a break Tuesday.
The son, called to the stand by prosecutors, also penned several letters to his father, from Russia where he and his younger sister are living with their grandparents. One said: "I don't want to see you Hans."
Another letter, which was displayed to jurors, demanded: "Tell me where Nina is." Still, another reiterated over and again. "Where is Nina?"
The boy regularly called his mother and father by their first name.
Prosecutor Hora asked the boy why he didn't want to see his father, who developed a popular open-source, Linux filing system at his Oakland company Namesys.
"I'm mad at him," the boy replied.
"Can I ask you why?" Hora responded.
"Why are you mad at him?" Hora asked.
"Because he hides Nina."
"How do you know he hides Nina?"
"Because who can do something to Nina except Hans?"
Jurors were mesmerized, watching the boy's every move.
At one point, the boy was drumming on the witness stand with his hands. Hours earlier, when he first took the stand, he appeared bug-eyed and timid. But now he seemed relaxed.
Still, the boy changed his story from earlier in the day.
In the morning, he testified he could not remember what happened after her mother dropped him and his sister at the defendant's house. But this time, when Hora prompted him again, he insinuated the mother left.
Hora asked: "Usually, if your mom dropped you off at Hans' house, you would give her a hug and say goodbye?"
"Yes," the boy replied.
"On the day you last saw your mom at Hans' house, what happened?"
"The same," the boy answered.
Months ago, the boy had told a judge weighing whether Reiser should stand trial that he saw his mom leave the Oakland house, and his father and sister began playing video games with their father.
The father, 43, has pleaded not guilty. Reiser maintains the woman abandoned his children and perhaps went to Russia, where she and Hans met. The entire marriage, Reiser's defense attorney told jurors last week, was a ploy so she could become a U.S. citizen.
Outside of court Tuesday, DuBois told reporters the woman was engaged in a "charade," adding, "She wants to carry off any kind of scheme,... of her being missing at the behest of some foul play."
Prosecutors told jurors last week the husband perhaps choked the mother of his two children to end their bickering. Forensic evidence includes the woman's blood found on a pillar in Reiser's residence in Oakland and in his car.
The boy's testimony resumes Wednesday,...
Testimony by Reiser Son Does Job: Stirs Juror Confusion Over Mom's Disappearance
By David Kravets on November 14, 2007 | 4:34:24 PM
OAKLAND, California --The young son of Linux genius Hans Reiser concluded testifying Wednesday at the behest of prosecutors who accuse his father of murdering his mother. The boy's nearly two days on the stand did what the authorities had hoped.
Jurors purposely were left confused by an 8-year-old boy who is to provide the trial's only eyewitness testimony about the final moments before his mother vanished.
That's an important distinction as the trial meanders through its second week here in Alameda County Superior Court. The boy was called by prosecutors, and flown from Russia, in a bid to show jurors his memory can't be believed as far as Sept. 3, 2006 is concerned -- the day his mother disappeared after she dropped the boy and sister at their father's Oakland hills house.
The authorities are trying to sow seeds of doubt in jurors over the boy's credibility because in December, in a pretrial hearing before a jury was picked, the boy testified he saw his mother, Nina Reiser, leave the Oakland house.
The boy, who is now living with his grandparents and younger sister in Russia, was all over the map here about the final day his mother was seen. He never directly said he saw his mother leave his father's house. The closest he got was that he said his father told him to go downstairs while the divorcing couple spoke upstairs, and that he usually hugs his mother goodbye.
It was clear from the trial's outset that the boy was called to testify in a bid to confuse jurors, to push them to doubt his pretrial testimony that he saw his mother leave. Prosecutor Paul Hora, during his opening remarks last week, told jurors the boy was not to be believed.
Yet Hora called him from Russia to testify anyway. "He's just not reliable because he is so little," Hora told jurors Nov. 7.
Outside court, he declined to discuss the boy's testimony.
Inside court, Hora played several interviews the boy had with police and mental health workers following his mother's disappearance. Again, the boy never said he saw his mother leave but gave wide-ranging accounts of the final day his mother was last seen. After each tape was played, Hora asked the boy whether he was telling the truth.
"Yes," the boy responded.
During Hora's opening remarks last week, he suggested the father killed the woman at the husband's Oakland hills house after bringing over the two children. The 31-year-old woman's blood was found in the house and in Hans Reiser's car, which was missing its front seat, Hora said. He speculated to jurors that the 43-year-old husband, a judo black belt, choked the woman to death to end a bitter divorce and child-custody battle.
Defense attorney William DuBois is set to cross examine the boy Thursday. Outside court, DuBois declined to address the boy's testimony.
Last week, DuBois told jurors during his opening remarks that the mother, once a Russian mail-order bride, purposely disappeared and abandoned her children as part of an orchestrated "charade" of a marriage to become a U.S. citizen. The husband, who has developed popular open-source Linux file systems from his Oakland company Namesys, has pleaded not guilty and is jailed without bail.
While the boy was called to discredit himself, he also painted a grim picture of his father during his two days on the stand. He testified he didn't love his father and told jurors he saw him walking down the stairs the night in question, carrying what he believed was "somebody" in a bag.
The boy's testimony under direct examination, however, came full circle. Hora concluded Wednesday by asking him whether he was truthful in December, when he testified he saw his mother leave.
"When you came to court last year and were asked questions and gave answers ,... did you tell the truth?"
"Do you remember what you said?"
"Do you remember what you said in court that was different or the same?" Hora asked.
Reiser Boy Becomes Pawn at Father's Murder Trial--Update
By David Kravets on November 15, 2007 | 2:42:18 PM
OAKLAND, California -- The 8-year-old son of Linux superstar Hans Reiser testified at his father's murder trial here Thursday that his grandparents told him his dad did something terrible to his mother, Nina Reiser.
"They told you, for example, that Hans killed Nina?" defense attorney William DuBois asked the boy, who was on the stand for his third day of questioning, the first under cross examination.
"Hide Nina," the boy responded.
"Oh. They told you he did something bad to Nina and hid her?"
The boy regularly calls his mother and father by their first name.
The defense is attempting to portray to jurors that the boy's grandparents have brainwashed him to believe his father hurt his mother in a bid to explain pictures and recollections the boy had of his father carrying "somebody" down the stairs in a bag the night his mother went missing Sept. 3, 2006. The boy told jurors that story two days ago.
The boy testified Thursday he was with three social workers last fall when he drew the picture of his father on the staircase. He said he was in Russia, where he is living with his younger sister and the parents of his mother.
"What was it that caused you to do this drawing, if you remember? The thought just came to you somehow?" DuBois asked
When he finished making the picture, the three social workers at the time said "good," the boy testified.
The boy also said his Russian grandmother showed him stories about his father's case on the internet, and said the grandmother asked him not to tell anybody that they were discussing his father.
"Your grandma showed you things on the internet and showed you things that Hans did was bad?"
The boy testified he stopped loving his father after he moved in with his grandparents.
"When did you stop loving him, when you moved to Russia?" DuBois asked.
At the time Nina vanished, she and her husband were undergoing a bitter divorce and custody battle. Authorities allege the 43-year-old husband killed the woman, perhaps by choking her, after she brought the kids to the computer engineer's Oakland hills house for the weekend. A body of the 31-year-old woman has not been discovered.
Reiser, who created popular open-source file systems from his Oakland company, Namesys, has pleaded not guilty and maintains the wife, who he met in Russia, abandoned her children after she became a U.S. citizen.
The boy finished up his testimony hours later and changed his story after a lunch break, telling jurors Thursday his grandmother told him that his father killed his mother.
Defense attorney DuBois asked whether his grandmother, Irina Sharanova, said so.
"My grandmother say (sic) that Hans killed her," the boy said.
At about 3 p.m., and as the boy began to appear tired on the stand, the judge admonished the defendant for twice speaking loudly to his attorney who was trying to cross examine the boy.
"Mr. Reiser, I'm not going to advise you again," Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman said, in full earshot of the 12 jurors. (That was the first of more fireworks to come between the defendant and judge.)
All the while, the boy was doodling with a pen at the witness stand while DuBois played a taped interview the boy gave authorities after arriving in Oakland this weekend. At one point during the daylong proceeding, the boy showed his drawing to the Russian-speaking mental health worker who has sat by his side on the stand the past three days.
The boy was wearing brown slacks, sandals with socks, and a brown shirt that said "Santa Cruz Golf Team." The child, who speaks Russian and English, seemed exhausted, unable to communicate his answers as the day wore on. He was peppered with questions over and again regarding a critical point of whether he saw his mother leave his father's house the day she vanished. The authorities claim she never left alive.
"You remember you saw your mom go up into the street?" DuBois asked.
But during the weekend taped interview with prosecutor Hora that was played to jurors, and during live testimony the previous two days, the boy said he didn't remember or was unsure.
Prosecutor Hora: "Do you remember whether your mom even left after she gave you a hug?"
The boy: "No." Pause. "She left."
"How do you know?"
"What can she do?" the boy answered.
"What do you mean by that?"
"No one stays in a house if they say goodbye," the boy said.
"Do you remember your mom saying goodbye?
"So you think if she said goodbye, she must have left?"
The boy was dismissed as a witness about 3:30 p.m. The fireworks between the judge and defendant quickly reignited.
After the boy and jurors were escorted from the courtroom here, Hans Reiser began complaining to the judge over custody proceedings that gave the boy to the grandparents in Russia.
"I put up with your paranoia about as much as I'm going to," Judge Larry Goodman said. The judge added: "You can have whatever paranoia and illusions you want. This court is going to having nothing to do with that."
Reiser also told the judge he didn't want his son to be dismissed as a witness yet.
"I want to ask him some questions," the defendant said.
The judge told Reiser he had an able-bodied attorney, who already finished up his cross examination of his son.
"Can I appoint myself as my own co-counsel?" Reiser asked.
"No you cannot appoint yourself your own counsel," Goodman said.
Reiser Murder Trial: Divorce Was 'Hostile;' Couple Fought Over Violent Video Games -- Update
By David Kravets on November 26, 2007 | 5:01:00 PM
OAKLAND, California -- The divorce between Nina and Hans Reiser was acrimonious at best, and their disputes often surrounded whether their young son could play violent video games, the missing woman's family law attorney testified here Monday at the husband's murder trial.
"It was a huge bone of contention," divorce attorney Shelley Gordon testified in the trial's third week, "pretty much the whole case."
"That came up over and over and over again," Gordon added.
Nina filed for divorce Aug. 2, 2004, Gordon said, two years before she vanished. "It was very adversarial. It was very hostile. It just dragged on at a snail's pace," Gordon testified of the divorce.
The husband, who developed once-popular Linux file systems from his Oakland company Namesys, is accused of murdering his wife, who was last seen Sept. 3, 2006 after she dropped off their two young children at his Oakland hills house for the weekend.
Testimony is expected to last weeks or more. The bulk of the remaining testimony, like Monday's, is not expected to touch too heavily on whether the husband killed the woman and instead will focus on the character and behaviors of the husband and wife.
That's because no body has been found, and forensic evidence is limited to blood discovered at the Oakland house and inside the husband's car, which was found missing the passenger seat.
The husband has pleaded not guilty and maintains his wife, a former Russian mail-order bride, went back to Russia, abandoning her two young children after she became a U.S. citizen. Prosecutors allege he possibly choked her after she left the kids and dumped the body in a bid to finalize the divorce once and for all.
The prosecution is eliciting testimony painting the woman as a caring, perfect mother who would never abandon her children. The defense is casting her in an unsavory light.
Earlier in the day, a woman testified that she believed Nina, who vanished at age 31, "had an infectious smile. She was a kind person."
The trial's second witness, Marni Hunter (left), who was a volunteer at the private Oakland elementary and preschool where the Reiser's preschool aged son and daughter attended, added that Nina Reiser "was a fabulous mom."
"Do you think she would have ever have abandoned her kids?" Alameda County prosecutor Paul Hora asked.
On cross examination, defense attorney William DuBois asked Hunter whether she knew Nina was using the internet "to find male companionship on Craigslist" or living with a man, her husband's former best friend, who practiced sadomasochism.
"Did she discuss sadomasochism with you?"
The 12 jurors and four alternatives followed every question, turning their heads almost in unison to watch questions being asked and the answers being given from the witness stand to their left. About two dozen men and women filled the gallery of Alameda County Superior Court Larry Goodman's courtroom here.
Hunter also testified she and several other people searched for Nina Reiser and placed ads around town hoping somebody might have seen her.
"You didn't check any places in Russia, or international locations?" DuBois asked her.
Gordon, the attorney who was the trial's third witness, told jurors that Hans and Nina disputed most every facet of the divorce, from the $5,400 in monthly family support he was ordered to pay to who would get the minivan, custody of the children to coming to an agreement on choosing an evaluator to examine their children's mental state.
Gordon said Hans wanted an evaluator "who didn't have a bias against video games, violent video games."
She testified he wanted somebody who would watch his son, now 8, playing videos to see if doing so was detrimental to the boy -- "whether the results were observable."
Gordon, the woman's divorce attorney, resumed the witness stand after lunch and testified for the rest of the afternoon on direct examination. She could face cross examination sometime Tuesday.
She testified that Nina spent as much as $20,000 in legal fees in a bid to get full custody of the two kids.
She testified that the husband abandoned the kids.
She testified he didn't pay his court ordered monthly support. "Hans wasn't providing any assistance," she said.
"I don't think Hans was interested in the kids. He was focused on the business," Gordon added.
At one point, defense attorney DuBois objected unnecessarily to a question posed by prosecutor Hora. He quickly apologized, and said his concentration was repeatedly being interrupted by his client, who often starts talking to him in open court.
Reiser, again wearing the same dark coat he's worn for the past three weeks, peered into the gallery. His mother, who attended the first week's session, was not there. She was ordered removed after the judge excluded potential witnesses.
As the day's session ended, Hora asked Gordon whether she thought Nina would ever bail on her children.
"She was devoted to her kids," Gordon said. "I never got the slightest inkling."
Testimony resumes here Tuesday morning.
Reiser Murder Trial Theme Emerging: Wife Was a Good Mom, Bad Mom -- Update
By David Kravets on November 27, 2007 | 8:00:00 PM
OAKLAND, California -- Witness No. 3 continued on the stand Tuesday in the Hans Reiser murder trial, and she quickly became the subject of several insults under cross examination by the defendant's attorney.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman quickly put a halt to the abrasion. "You can do it in a respectful manner," Goodman admonished defense attorney William DuBois.
The 12-member jury and four alternates were often captivated as DuBois cross examined Shelley Gordon, the divorce attorney for Nina Reiser, who vanished after dropping off her two young children to her former husband's Oakland hills house in September, 2006.
At one point during the morning session, DuBois suggested that Hans Reiser's former wife or her estate ironically stands to inherit the husband's Namesys company that produced Linux file systems if Hans Reiser is convicted of killing her.
The defense claims the husband did not kill the woman in a bid to end a bitter divorce, as prosecutors allege. Instead, she abandoned her two preschool-aged children after becoming a U.S. citizen and fled to Russia, where she met her husband as a mail-order bride, DuBois said in his opening statements three weeks ago.
"You don't really know what the value is of his dotcom company?" DuBois exclaimed of Oakland-based Namesys.
"I don't know," Gordon replied.
"Thanks for sharing."
Moments later, DuBois added: "Nina's estate stands to get virtually everything he has?"
After some brief discourse, Gordon replied: "I don't really know that much about probate."
"That's obvious," DuBois said.
That's when Judge Goodman interjected.
Still, Gordon testified that she counseled the divorcing wife that she had a financial stake in Namesys, her husband's company responsible for the Reiser3 and Reiser4 file systems and other Linux developments.
"I said she may have an interest in the company," she testified. Gordon testified the divorcing couple had a "financial mess" of some $50,000 in credit card debt.
Prosecutors called Gordon to the stand on Monday, in a bid to elicit testimony from Nina's divorce lawyer that would show jurors that Nina Reiser would never have left her kids. The divorce attorney testified Monday that Nina spent as much as $20,000 in legal fees while fighting for sole custody of the children.
The defense is portraying Nina Reiser, who vanished at age 31, as a morally loose woman who had an affair with her husband's best friend and fled the country after plundering Namesys' treasury.
"She withdrew money from the Namesys account to support herself?" DuBois asked Gordon.
The divorce attorney and the defense attorney also sparred over damaging testimony she gave Monday concerning a dispute between Hans and Nina over whether their young son, who was four at the time, could watch violent movies and play violent video games.
Hans exposed the boy to such games and movies, and the mother objected. Eventually, during the drawn out divorce proceedings, Hans acquiesced to the mother's demands. The divorce was never finalized as the mother vanished Sept. 3, 2006.
Referring to the defendant, DuBois told jurors that video games and movies "was like the essence of his soul."
Gordon testified the wife was concerned about "only the ones that were violent." With a snub in her voice, she added, "Because the kid was four."
DuBois asked her whether she could cite any of the games' names.
"I don't really know the games," Gordon replied. However, she mentioned one game, "Battle Vietnam."
Gordon testified that Hans thought it was important for his son to "see Nazis defeated in war games."
"I don't know anybody but Hans Reiser who thinks that's a good thing," said Gordon, who noted one of the disputed films was "Saving Private Ryan."
DuBois suggested that "people are not at their best during a divorce." He asked of Gordon: "It's also true that children are often used as pawns in what may become a chess game of divorce?"
"That is," Gordon replied, "very unfortunate."
After the lunch break, Gordon continues under cross-examination,...
Gordon testified Nina asked her "whether she could move to Russia with the children."
"I said 'I didn't think so,'" Gordon recalled. Moments later, she testified: "I said 'it probably would not be a very successful motion.' So she abandoned the idea."
There were more fireworks between Gordon and DuBois.
As DuBois started inquiring about some technical immigration and family law issues, Gordon responded: "I'm not a big muckymuck in the field." She added "I don't know immigration law, either."
Moments later, Dubois exclaimed: "Then again you're not an immigration expert."
Here's a few dog-and-cat moments between the two:
"Did you hear my question?"
"I did hear your question?"
"I guess there's no easy answer to answering my questions?" DuBois asked. Gordon responded that his questions rambled.
"So that's what happened?"
"That's what happened."
DuBois later asked Gordon whether she thought a person is a fool who acts as one's own attorney. At times, Hans Reiser did that in his divorce litigation.
"Sometimes," Gordon replied.
"We agree on that?"
"I think we do."
Testimony resumes Wednesday.
Hans Reiser Portrayed as 'Stressed' Before Nina Vanished -- Update 2
By David Kravets on November 28, 2007 | 7:51:00 PM
OAKLAND, California -- A local politician took the witness stand in the Hans Reiser murder trial Wednesday, offering testimony that the defendant was "stressed" and growing deeply frustrated with the divorce courts that had awarded legal custody of their children to his wife.
Reiser's wife, Nina Reiser, disappeared days after the final communication between the husband and the local official. They communicated on and off for about a year, in person, via e-mail or by telephone, and their discussions centered on changing what Hans Reiser perceived as bias in the local divorce courts.
Nina Reiser's body has never been discovered, and authorities accuse the husband, the maker of Linux file systems, of killing the woman in a bid to end what can best be described as bitter divorce proceedings.
Prosecutors called Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele, as Witness No. 4, to bolster their theory that the husband murdered his wife so he would not have to pay her thousands of dollars in unpaid support, and to get full custody of their two young children whom Reiser believed were being reared poorly by her.
"He was stressed," said Steele, who is one of five members of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, a body that manages the county's finances.
Jurors at times appeared bored, as did the dozen onlookers in the gallery here in Alameda County Superior Court. One juror sat with his head back, gazing at the 30-foot-high ceiling. Other jurors rested their heads in their palms, some jotted notes while others listened intently as the trial slogged through its third week.
Hans Reiser, 43, has pleaded not guilty and maintains his wife, at age 31, abandoned her children and went to Russia, where the pair met years ago. Prosecutors allege the husband killed the wife Sept. 3, 2006, after Nina dropped off the kids at his Oakland house for the weekend.
Steele testified that, once the computer programmer's wife went missing, the husband ceased communicating with her.
"He never contacted you again about all of these important issues he was working on?" prosecutor Paul Hora asked Steele.
"No," said Steele, who also testified that Hans Reiser donated $2,000 to her June re-election campaign.
"Not a peep?" Hora finished.
During the lunch break, defense attorney William DuBois told reporters that Steele's testimony "was not damaging."
"He was trying, working with her to change the process," DuBois said. "What he was obsessed about was how the court was treating his children."
Inside court, the prosecutor asked Steele: "Was it fair to say he was very frustrated with the family court process?"
"That would be fair to say."
"Was he obsessed about it?"
"I wouldn't go that far."
After the lunch break,...
Witness No. 5 took the stand and did exactly what prosecutors anticipated. He painted a glowing portrait of Nina Reiser, of a mother who would never abandon her children as the defense maintains.
The witness was Ronald Zeno, the executive director of Safe Exchange.
For a year in 2005, the Reisers would exchange their kids at the social service company. One parent would leave the children, and another would pick them up about 15 minutes later.
"Nina was great with the kids. She was a great person. Every time she walked in to pick up her kids, she would get on one knee and put her hands out and both kids, the children would run to her," he said.
Prosecutor Hora asked Zeno whether Nina would "voluntarily disappear."
Outside of court, Zeno told THREAT LEVEL that the couple stopped using the Oakland drop off service in December, 2005. He did not know why.
(Irony: Hans Reiser is accused of killing his wife after she brought the kids over to his Oakland house in September of last year.)
An Alameda County Department of Child Support Services case worker, Witness No. 6, testified that days before Nina Reiser vanished, Hans Reiser called the agency and was angry that he received a letter stating he was $12,161 behind in child support.
"Mr. Reiser was upset because he got a child support warning notice," testified Joyce Harnett, the case worker.
The notice, Harnett said, informs recipients that the county can confiscate belongings to make good on the debt.
"Is there anything you can't take?" prosecutor Hora asked.
"No." (Jurors erupted in laughter.)
She testified that "Mr. Reiser insisted he was in compliance." She told him: "There was nothing we could do about it because it was court ordered."
At the time of the notice, the husband was ordered to pay $1,000 monthly support, down from the $5,400 a month he was paying.
Under cross examination, defense attorney DuBois suggested the county erred.
"Sometimes errors are made?" he asked the case worker.
Testimony resumes here Thursday.
Police Officer to Nina Reiser: 'Get Yourself a Gun' -- Update
By David Kravets on November 29, 2007 | 4:04:29 PM
OAKLAND, California -- An Oakland police officer testified at Hans Reiser's murder trial Thursday that he advised Nina Reiser, the wife of the popular Linux programmer, to "get yourself a gun" to protect herself from the man she was divorcing.
"I told her one day, 'You need to get yourself a gun,'" the officer testified
The 12 jurors and four alternates latched onto what was by far the most riveting testimony as the computer guru's trial finishes its third week here in Alameda County Superior Court.
"That man used to loom over her, to glare at her," the officer testified.
And an hour before officer Benjamin Denson took the stand, a cashier at a bookstore testified Hans Reiser purchased two books about murder days after his wife went missing in September, 2006.
Officer Denson, now retired, testified he was on evening duty -- what he called the "dogwatch shift" -- at the Oakland Police Department most every Wednesday in 2005. It was there, he testified, he supervised divorcing families and the Reisers exchanging their children inside police headquarters.
He testified he often saw intense animosity between Nina and Hans when they exchanged their two young kids.
"Tell us about it," prosecutor Paul Hora asked.
"They rarely talked," he replied. "It was my impression, this is what I observed, the defendant displayed hostility towards Nina. I would call it barely restrained aggression."
After the separated parents would exchange their children, the officer testified he would go "outside to make sure nothing occurred between Nina and the defendant."
Hans Reiser, 43, has pleaded not guilty. He maintains his wife, who he met in Russia, abandoned her children after five years of marriage, the time necessary to become a U.S. citizen.
Prosecutors allege the husband, the operator of Oakland-based Namesys, is a cold-blooded killer who murdered the mother of his children on Sept. 3, 2006, after she dropped off the kids at his Oakland hills house. The authorities allege he killed the woman to end their contentious divorce and custody battle.
Meanwhile, as Witness No. 7, Sandra Rudd testified the husband bought two books about murder five days after Nina vanished at age 31. He allegedly made the purchase from the now-defunct Barnes & Noble store where she was a cashier in Berkeley, California.
Prosecutors showed jurors a store surveillance tape of the transaction and also produced the $28.25 cash receipt police discovered after arresting the husband last year.
Jurors were shown the books. One was David Simon's "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets," an eyewitness account of a reporter following Baltimore homicide detectives for a year. The other, "Masterpieces of Murder," is a review of notorious murder cases written by Jonathan Goodman.
When officer Denson was on the stand, prosecutor Hora asked of him: "Based on your experience, and the year 2005 when you witnessed Nina interact with her children, do you have an opinion if she would be the type of woman that would voluntarily disappear and abandon her children?"
"Absolutely not," replied the officer, who was Witness No. 8. "She was very solicitous of those children. She cared about them. She loved them."
On cross examination, Denson told jurors there was "often tension in the air" during drop-offs by other parents as well.
"Did he ever swing at her?" defense attorney William DuBois asked.
"There was no act of physical aggression toward her, is that right, sir?" DuBois asked.
DuBois asked the officer whether his vibrant attitude of Nina Reiser would change "if you found out she committed multiple acts of grand theft in her spare time?"
Prosecutor Hora objected: "There's no foundation."
The question was withdrawn.
"You really don't know what type of person she was outside the Oakland Police Department, do you?" asked DuBois.
"That's certainly true."
As the lunch break neared, a teacher testified that the Reisers' preschool-aged daughter was in her class and that Nina often gave her time to the Oakland school.
"She was a very loving parent," testified Mary Aima, who was Witness No. 9. "She volunteered, a lot."
On cross examination, defense attorney DuBois asked whether she knew Nina outside of school time. She said she did not.
Earlier in the trial, jurors were told that Nina had an affair with her husband's best friend and surfed the internet searching for men.
After lunch, Witness No. 10, U-Sef Barnes, an Alameda County social worker, testified he answered the county's child abuse hotline in September, 2005. The father was on the line alleging Nina had Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, and was making up ailments about their son, now 8.
"The caller really wanted me to believe the mother had Munchausen's," he testified.
Barnes suspected there was no abuse and the county took no action
Witness No. 11, Helen Campbell, the principal at the elementary school where the former couple's son and daughter attended, testified that the husband told her he believed Nina had Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, especially as it concerned the boy's ability to write. The mother and school officials thought the boy had weak hands, making it difficult to learn penmanship.
"I would characterize him as extremely hostile," Campbell testified. "He was angry at Nina but he was also angry at the teachers." She said the father "was concerned his son was at risk of being diagnosed with things."
The woman had sole legal custody of their two kids, and the father had them every other weekend and sometimes a day or two during the week.
Court is dark Friday. Testimony resumes Monday.
Hans Reiser's Mom Tells Jurors One Thing, Police Another -- Update
By David Kravets on December 03, 2007 | 4:29:09 PM
OAKLAND, California -- Hans Reiser's mother took the witness stand at her son's murder trial Monday, offering a different explanation about what she thought happened to her daughter in law than what she told police days after Nina Reiser vanished last year.
On the witness stand for hours, Reiser's mother, Beverly Palmer, sat stone-faced and appeared agitated. Her answers were often elusive. "Mmmmhhhhmmmm," she often responded to prosecutor Paul Hora's questioning.
Minus her fiery red-dyed hair -- her withdrawn cheeks and inset eyes were a mirror image of her son, the developer of a once-popular Linux file system who is being held in jail here without bail. He is accused of murdering his wife, Nina Reiser, on Sept. 3, 2006, to end a bitter divorce.
Nina Reiser was last seen that day when she brought their two kids to Hans for the weekend. Hans Reiser was living in the Oakland hills with his mother following his separation, which resulted in a contentious and acrimonious divorce that was never finalized.
The husband, 43, has pleaded not guilty. He says his wife, who he met in Russia, moved back to Russia after she became a U.S. citizen, abandoning her two young children. Police found trace amounts of the 31-year-old woman's blood in her husband's car and in the Oakland hills residence, and other circumstantial evidence as well, including two books about murder Hans Reiser purchased days after his wife went missing.
"Is it fair to say you thought she was more than missing," prosecutor Paul Hora asked Palmer. "Maybe she just ran away to Russia?"
"Is that what crossed your mind," Hora asked, referring to her Sept. 8, 2006, interview last year with Oakland police.
"That day I thought somebody had kidnapped her."
Like her son's eyes, Palmer's are deeply inset. Their gaze could puncture a cement wall. Palmer's blue eyes kept slanting to her left, capturing glimmers of her son, who faces a life sentence if convicted.
She was at the Burning Man festival during the weekend in question, she testified.
"Do you know where Nina is?" Hora asked.
"Do I know where Nina is? No."
"What was your impression of Nina on Sept. 8, 2006, on whether or not she would be the kind of woman -- mother -- who would abandon her children?"
"Well, she did leave them twice before," Palmer said, referring to two trips the woman took without her children during her five-year marriage.
Last year, however, she told police: "I can't imagine her leaving the children."
She told jurors she has now changed her mind. "Since then I have some second thoughts," she said.
"Since then, your son has also been charged with murder," Hora responded.
"Mmmmhhhhmmmm," the mother replied.
Outside of court, defense attorney William DuBois discounted the mother's testimony.
"Her memory fails more than the average memory," DuBois said.
After the lunch break...
The prosecution's grilling of Beverly Palmer continued.
Hora went back and forth with Palmer for another 35 minutes about that Sept. 8, 2006 interview with two Oakland police officers.
The interview was recorded, and several excerpts were played to jurors.
"Once again, you're telling the police that you can't imagine Nina leaving the children?"
On the tape, she was overheard saying: "I just know something must have happened to her because it would be so atypical of her to leave the children."
She testified that both times Nina Reiser left the children for extended periods, she made arrangements for the kids and alerted her husband.
"Don't you think there's a difference between Nina making arrangements versus, hhhhmmmm, not telling anybody and just disappearing?" Hora asked.
"There is a comparison. She was not with her children," Palmer responded.
At one point, the defendant showed a bundle of notes to his defense lawyer. All the while, the 12 jurors and four alternates were soaking in Palmer's testimony. Like spectators at a tennis match, jurors' heads bobbed back and forth with the questions and answers -- sometimes beating the speaker to the punch.
Later on, Palmer testified that she was frustrated that her son took her car for a couple weeks after her daughter in law went missing. Hans Reiser's small, early model Honda CRX also vanished after Nina was last seen.
The two-seater CRX was recovered weeks later, after the mother took her Honda hybrid back from Hans. The CRX's front seat was missing. A sleeping bag cover with traces of Nina Reiser's blood was found inside.
"Did you ever ask him where the CRX was?"
"He just told me it was broken. He didn't tell me where it was."
"Did he refuse to tell you where it was?"
Palmer resumes the stand Tuesday, continuing under direct examination.
Reiser's Mom Defending Son on Her Second Day of Testimony -- Update
By David Kravets on December 04, 2007 | 4:37:55 PM
OAKLAND, California -- Hans Reiser's mother took the witness stand at her son's murder trial here for the second day Tuesday and did what moms usually do: Protect their offspring.
Reiser's mother, Beverly Palmer, wore the same grayish blue dress she had on Monday, and her dyed hair was styled in the same red fiery way. But the mother's voice, demeanor and recollection was much different while she responded to a mountain of questions from her son's attorney, William DuBois, who is defending Hans Reiser on allegations he killed his wife last year.
"Is Hans a violent person?"
"How long have you known Hans?"
"For 43 years," the mother replied, chuckling while reciting her only child's age.
"Is Hans the type of person who did violent things?
"Are you aware of any violent act Hans has ever done to any human being?"
"No," she said.
Her son, a programmer of a once-popular Linux filing system developed from his Oakland company Namesys, is accused of killing his wife, Nina Reiser, when she delivered the divorcing couple's two young children to his residence in the Oakland hills Sept. 3, 2006.
The woman's body has never been discovered. Police arrested the husband, accused him of murder while basing the accusations on a host of circumstantial evidence. The defendant has pleaded not guilty and says his former wife moved back to Russia -- where the couple met -- and abandoned her children after becoming a U.S. citizen.
Palmer discredited two key pieces of the prosecution's evidence -- trace amounts of blood found at the Oakland hills house she shared with her son and trace amounts of blood discovered on a sleeping bag cover found in the back of the defendant's tiny Honda CRX.
When peppered Monday and early Tuesday by a volley of questions from prosecutor Paul Hora, Palmer seemed unsure and her voice was robotic. Her piercing glare of yesterday and this morning vanished while addressing DuBois.
But before DuBois took the lectern, Palmer scuttled several questions posed by Hora with these responses:
"Could you say that again?"
"No. I don't remember."
"I really don't remember."
"Say this again now."
"I don't remember the call actually."
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. Her son was living with her in the Oakland hills after his wife left him two years before she vanished. Police found trace amounts of Nina and Hans' blood on that pillar.
DuBois projected the pillar on a large television monitor, pointing to the smudges with a laser light.
"Were those smudges there when you left?
"Is that how it looked when you got back?"
At one point, the defendant gazed at his attorney while the lawyer was cross-examining his mother. Hans Reiser's neck crooked left. His index finger draped his mouth. A balding spot on his graying hair is much larger today than was visible when he was arrested Oct. 10, 2006.
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.
"Did Nina ever have any problems with nose bleeding?"
"She could have. But I just don't remember."
There was some testy talk between Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman and DuBois, both in and out of the jury's presence.
DuBois was trying to establish that his client was sleeping in a Honda CRX after his wife disappeared, and Hora repeatedly objected.
(The passenger seat of the two-seater went missing after the wife vanished. The authorities speculate the vehicle was used to move Nina Reiser's body. The defendant said he removed the seat to make room for him to sleep. Before his arrest, Child Protective Services, the mom testified, said he could not live in the Oakland hills house with his children. Palmer had tentative custody of the two young kids. They are now living with Nina's mother in Russia.)
"Were you aware that Hans was living in his car?" DuBois asked the mother.
"Did CPS say they would not let you have the children if Hans was there?"
"Hearsay" Hora objected. "No foundation."
"I know what he's afraid of," DuBois said.
Judge Goodman was angry with defense attorney William DuBois.
"Bill. You know better to make comments like that in front of the jury. Don't do it again," Goodman said.
After jurors were excused for lunch, DuBois and Hora haggled with the judge about whether the mother could continue testifying whether she asked her son to wash out the CRX, which police discovered as being soaked on the inside with water. They also disputed testimony about the mother saying her son slept in the car.
"His state of mind was pure. It was not criminal," DuBois told the judge, arguing that exceptions to the hearsay rule allow him to continue peppering Palmer about the car.
"You can twist it anyway you want to try to make it fit inside that same hole," the judge responded.
"How does sleeping inside a car show state of mind, Mr. DuBois?" the judge continued. "Let me answer my own question. It doesn't."
Palmer testified that neither she nor her son participated in public searches for Nina. She said the two felt unwelcomed, and were both easily susceptible to poison oak.
"I get violent poison oak. He gets bad cases of poison oak, also," she said.
Regarding that wooden pillar with the blood on it, the mother said it was located by an entryway where people routinely pass. "I never cleaned it because I was going to refinish it one day, but I never got around to it," she said.
"So it had marks on it for how many years?" DuBois asked.
"It seems like that area of the post is smudge city?"
"That's true. It's very unsightly?" the mother replied.
"So as you walked by there, if you wanted to put on some shoes, you might grab hold of it?" DuBois asked.
"Yes. That's right."
She also testified that she never heard Nina or Hans tell each other they loved one another.
Testimony resumes Wednesday.
Video of Hans Reiser's Kids Moves Jurors at Linux Programmer's Murder Trial -- Update
By David Kravets on December 05, 2007 | 3:54:08 PM
OAKLAND, California -- A 21-minute videotape showing Hans Reiser's missing wife playing and cuddling with their children at her son's birthday party captivated jurors at the Linux programmer's murder trial here Wednesday.
The glowing facial expressions of the 12 jurors and four alternates as they watched a sixth-year birthday party for one of the Reiser's children was one of the lighter yet more powerful moments in the murder trial of Hans Reiser, who is accused of killing his wife to end a bitter divorce and acrimonious custody battle.
Jurors chuckled in unison as they watched the Reiser boy, now 8 years old, swipe a candle from his birthday cake to taste the frosting. Moments before, Nina Reiser was seen on the tape, rubbing her son's cheeks and giving him light smooches. One juror's head bobbed as the tape showed Nina Reiser jumping on a trampoline with their second child, a young daughter.
At one point, Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield" was playing on the tape's background.
The 43-year-old defendant, seated at the defense table, craned his neck to the right, at least momentarily, to watch on a large video monitor his two children and other kids doing gymnastics and eating cake and ice cream. The developer of open-source file systems from his Oakland-based company, Namesys, resumed taking notes and chatting with his lawyer, which he has done often throughout the trial, now in its fourth week here.
He has pleaded not guilty, saying his wife abandoned their children and moved to Russia where the couple met.
Authorities claim the husband killed his wife when she dropped off the two children in the Oakland hills where the defendant was living with his mother. A body has never been recovered. A host of circumstantial clues were left behind, including blood, books about murder and, among other things, a the passenger seat from the defendant's vehicle is gone.
The morning court session quickly turned from cheerful to gloomy.
Nina's boyfriend, Anthony Zografos, the man who filmed the birthday party two years ago, slightly broke down on the stand as he described plans he and Nina had the day after the woman went missing Sept. 3, 2006. "We were going to perhaps go see a movie and have dinner," he said in a deep Greek accent.
Offering Zografos a tissue, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman leaned over to the witness stand. The witness took a small sip of water. The jury looked like it stopped breathing.
Prosecutor Paul Hora showed the birthday party tape and put Zografos on the stand in yet another bid to supply jurors with testimony that Nina Reiser was a caring mother who would not leave her young children.
"Could you form an opinion whether you think Nina would be the kind of mother who would voluntarily vanish and abandon her kids?"
"Absolutely not," Zografos replied, echoing a parade of statements from one witness after the other.
Zografos also testified that Nina Reiser was expected to start a new job two weeks after she disappeared, and she was studying to take the first of three medical board exams to become a doctor.
He said one of the last communications he had with Nina Reiser was on the day she went missing, when she texted him a message, part of which read: "I'm sorry I missed your call my love."
Defense attorney William DuBois warns not to form any conclusions from the morning's proceeding. During the lunch break, he told reporters to await major revelations during a blockbuster cross examination. He declined to elaborate.
Prosecutor Hora played Nina Reiser's dozens of unreturned phone messages from friends. "I'm panicked," one said. "We're looking for you," said another. "I was worried."
Zografos testified that he made leaflets displaying Nina's image, led searches and even had billboards made with her picture on it.
He placed many a phone call to her as well.
"I continued calling probably several times an hour, both her cell phone and her home phone," Zografos said. Moments later, he added: "I don't think I slept at all."
"I was worried."
A boyfriend Nina had before Zografos, Sean Sturgeon, left an unreturned message for Nina saying if she needed "to get away from anything for a while ... you can call me and I won't say anything about it to nobody."
Sturgeon was Reiser's best friend before he started sleeping with his wife.
Zografos, meanwhile, said when he searched Nina's house the day after she dropped the kids with Hans, her computer showed that she had been searching for men on Craigslist.
"As entertainment we would also look at Craigslist personal ads," Zografos said.
Expect defense attorney William DuBois to zero in on that statement and the Sturgeon call when he cross examines Zografos on Thursday. As prosecutors paint Nina as a saint, the defense is trying to vilify her in a bid to show that, perhaps, she would leave her kids.
During his opening remarks a month ago, DuBois showed jurors some of those Craigslist ads, which included pictures of sex and male genitals.
"We'll go over that tomorrow," DuBois told reporters when the session ended Wednesday. He was referring to the personals and the Sturgeon call.
Linux Programmer's Defense Seizes on Confused Aftermath of Nina Reiser's Disappearance -- Update
By David Kravets on December 06, 2007 | 4:23:50 PM
OAKLAND, California -- Hans Reiser's defense attorney on Thursday seized upon the confusion in the immediate aftermath of Nina Reiser's disappearance to bolster the theory that the woman disappeared last year and was not murdered by her husband as prosecutors allege.
Defense attorney William DuBois grilled Anthony Zografos, the man Nina was dating when she vanished Sept. 3, 2006 after she dropped off her two young children to her estranged husband, the maker of once popular Linux filing systems distributed by his Oakland company, Namesys.
"When Nina originally did not respond to her voice mail messages, isn't it true you thought she may have left, to just take a break and get away?" DuBois asked Zografos, who was on the witness stand for the second day.
"I did not conclude that, actually."
"I'm asking you whether your voice messages to Nina reflect the fact that ... Nina may have taken off on her own, to take a break?"
Moments later, the boyfriend replied: "I was hoping she was alive and perhaps she had left."
Dozens of messages were placed by friends and family on Nina's home and mobile phones after she vanished. She has not been seen since leaving her two young children with her former husband in the Oakland hills house Hans Reiser shared with his mother.
Some of the messages said "We love you" and others: "We don't want to see you get into trouble."
"What did you mean, 'Everything can be fixed?'" DuBois asked Zografos, referring to a message the boyfriend left.
"I meant, if Nina is able to listen to her voice mails, if she was afraid something bad had happened to the kids -- nothing is broken, everything can be fixed," Zografos said in a thick Greek accent. "These are messages of a desperate man."
The court stenographer interrupted. "Say it again."
"These are messages of a desperate man."
The 12 jurors and four alternates appeared engaged in the back and forth dialogue, which is the centerpiece of the husband's defense. The husband says his wife, who was divorcing him, left the country perhaps to Russia, where the two met, abandoning their children, now 6 and 8.
At one point, the witness and defendant exchanged violent stares.
The woman's divorce attorney testified last week that Nina had asked her whether the courts would allow her to move to Russia with the kids. The children are in Russia, living with Nina's parents. Nina has never been seen since Sept.3, 2006.
Prosecutors allege the husband killed the woman that day and hid the body, perhaps in the Oakland hills to end a bitter divorce and custody battle. The authorities found trace amounts of the woman's blood at the house and in his car. Among other circumstantial evidence, the passenger seat was missing in the husband's vehicle. Inside it, there were books about murder and it was soaking wet when police found it.
DuBois also assassinated Nina's character as the fourth week of Hans Reiser's murder trial is concluding.
At one point, DuBois pointed out, two boyfriends had a key to Nina's apartment in Oakland. One man was Zografos, the other Sean Sturgeon, the husband's former best friend who confessed to police he was a serial killer but said he did not murder Nina. (Sturgeon has not been accused of murdering anyone.)
Zografos testified he watched Sturgeon return his key.
"You were actually present at the changing of the key ceremony?" DuBois asked.
"When you got a key, Sean Sturgeon had a key?" DuBois continued.
"He had a key to the house," Zografos replied.
DuBois accused Nina of being promiscuous.
"You didn't think she was looking for other men while she was dating you, did you?" DuBois asked.
"I know she wasn't."
"You say that with some authority."
DuBois was referring to Craigslist personal ad searches discovered on the woman's computer after she vanished.
Zografos was on the stand all morning Thursday under cross examination. He appeared angry by the questioning and at points became hostile. "I'm not sure I understand the question," he said at times. He often clenched his mouth while DuBois posed one question after another.
The discourse veered back to the phone messages he and dozens of others left Nina.
"I was hoping that she had run away and that she had access to her voicemail," he said.
He testified that the police told him that people going through contentious divorces sometimes vanish for a few days.
"The police themselves said it was common for people going through the problems she was going through to take some time off," Zografos testified.
"They told you this was common to happen. They said it was not unusual for this to happen?" DuBois replied.
"They said it happens, sometimes."
Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman interjected.
"Bill, I think you made your point."
The witness, however, continued: "I was looking at that as the best case scenario, that Nina was alive and that she just had a breakdown."
DuBois asked whether Zografos was lying.
"I was desperate. I was looking for some hope."
Oakland pediatrician Dorit Bar-Din, the Reisers' former child doctor, took the witness stand ...
Like nearly a dozen others, she testified Nina was a good mother and would never abandon her kids.
"Do you have the opinion she would be the kind of parent that would vanish off the face of the earth voluntarily and abandon her children?" prosecutor Paul Hora asked.
"Objection," DuBois said. "I don't know how anybody can vanish off the face of the earth voluntarily, unless they're an astronaut."
"What was it about Nina to make you think she really cared about her kids?" Hora asked.
"Her mannerism with the children. The way she disciplined the children. The regularity that she followed my guidance in terms of coming to the office," the doctor said.
She recalled Nina kneeling on her office floor, consoling her young boy not to be scared of the doctor.
"'It wasn't going to be frightening,'" the doctor whispered, repeating what she overheard Nina tell the boy.
Bar-Din quit as the Reiser kids' doctor after she said Hans threatened to sue her if she examined the children outside his presence.
"How many times did she try to get you to change her mind?" Hora asked.
"I remember three phone calls," the doctor recalled Nina placing to her.
"Did you think she loved them?" Hora asked the doctor, referring to Nina and her children.
"Can I answer?" the doctor asked the judge.
"Yes," the judge replied.
"Anything about that last question that threw you for a loop?" Hora asked.
"Love is a big word," Bar-Din said.
The doctor testified that the husband was concerned that Sturgeon, Nina's live-in lover, was sexually abusing the two children.
"Were the kids examined for sexual abuse?" Hora asked.
"Yes they were."
"Was there evidence of sexual abuse?"
"That was after two examinations?"
On cross examination, DuBois queried the doctor if she could determine whether a child was "inappropriately touched" sexually without being penetrated.
"So your medical exam cannot necessarily tell whether a child has been inappropriately touched?"
"You don't know whether your exam revealed any inappropriate touching or not?"
Court is dark Fridays. Testimony resumes here Monday.
Hans Reiser Said Wife, Family 'Were a Financial Burden,' Witness Says -- Update
By David Kravets on December 10, 2007 | 3:47:11 PM
OAKLAND, California -- Two witnesses testified Monday at Hans Reiser's murder trial that the Linux programmer said his wife and family were a burden, and that he would be better off without them.
His wife disappeared months later. The husband, the developer of once-popular open-source file systems distributed by Oakland-based Namesys, has been held without bail. The 43-year-old Hans Reiser is charged with murdering the mother of his two young children, now 6 and 8, to end a bitter divorce and acrimonious custody battle.
He has pleaded not guilty and maintains his wife, who was divorcing him, abandoned her children and moved back to Russia where the couple met.
"During that conversation, did the defendant actually say something that stuck out in your mind?" prosecutor Paul Hora asked Blair Conry-Murray.
Conry-Murray was at a party in April, 2006, when she struck up a conversation with the computer programmer, whose children went to the same private preschool and elementary school in Oakland.
"He said that his family and Nina were a financial burden to him and that he felt he would be fine financially if he did not have to take care of them," the witness replied. "He was complaining about Nina."
"What was your reaction?" Hora asked a few questions later.
"I thought it was a strange thing to say. It really stood out to me. I thought it was inappropriate."
The 12 jurors and four alternatives appeared to take more notes than usual. The defendant, wearing the same dark sports coat since the trial began in November, often gazed at jurors. Some in the gallery here in Alameda County Superior Court took notes, some coughed and sneezed.
Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman earlier apologized to panelists that the case was not likely to end Jan. 17, as scheduled.
Nina Reiser, at age 31, was last seen Sept. 3, 2006, before she dropped off her two young children for Hans Reiser to watch over the Labor Day weekend.
Like so many of the witnesses before, Conry-Murray testified she never would have dreamed of Nina voluntarily abandoning her children.
"No. That would be impossible. She would never do that."
Conry-Murray's husband, Andrew, was at the same party and participating in the same discussion. The couple called police about the conversation after Nina Reiser went missing.
"What do you remember Hans saying?" Hora asked.
"I remember him talking about having a family ... having a wife and children were making things harder," Andrew Conry-Murray said.
"What was your reaction to those comments?"
"I was taken aback. They seemed to come out of nowhere. I was just kind of shocked."
"Why were you shocked?"
"His tone was kind of vehement. It was not the kind of thing you'd expect to hear at an occasion like this, a casual social occasion."
On cross examination by defense attorney William DuBois, Andrew Conry-Murray said he was a computer technology writer and agreed with DuBois' characterization that computer programmers "are a little bit socially retarded."
"Some are more socially retarded than others?" DuBois asked.
"You feel the comment he made, the comment he made at the get-together, as inappropriate?"
"Would you say it's consistent with someone who utterly lacked social skills?"
"I could say so, yes."
The case is based on circumstantial evidence. It includes Nina Reiser's blood being found at the Oakland hills house where the husband was living with his mother and trace amounts of blood being found in the husband's tiny Honda CRX, which contained two books about murder when police discovered it.
That vehicle went missing for weeks. The passenger seat was removed and the car was sopping wet inside.
Still, Nina Reiser's divorce attorney testified two weeks ago that the woman asked her if she could move to Russia with her children. And in the immediate aftermath of her disappearance, friends and family members left telephone messages, telling her everything was OK if she surfaced.
After lunch ...
Family friend Mark McGothigan testified that Hans Reiser was "socially inept."
Anthony Britto, Nina's landlord, verified that a $2,100 check discovered in Nina's abandoned minivan was meant for him, to pay for Nina's rent in September of last year.
Monica MacDonald, a former kindergarten teacher of the Reisers' son, now 8, testified that the young boy exhibited unusual behavior at school when he sometimes stayed at his father's house.
She said the boy was sometimes combative last year before his mother vanished: "'I don't need to listen to you, you're a woman. Women shouldn't have rights in this country,'" she quoted the boy as saying.
She said he had drawn violent pictures. "He said these were from games and things he'd seen at his father's house."
(Nina and Hans fought over whether it was OK for Hans to play and watch violent video games with the boy.)
The teacher, too, said she Nina would never leave her children. "She was one of those parents that always stepped forward that said, 'Is there anything I can do for you? Is there anything I can do for the school?'" MacDonald testified. "You could tell that the children and Nina enjoyed each other's company a lot."
The woman, however, testified that the child "was a completely normal boy."
(Hans Reiser has accused Nina Reiser of making up illnesses for the boy in order to acquire sympathy for herself.)
Prosecutor Focusing on Disproving Hans Reiser's Defense
By David Kravets on December 11, 2007 | 4:13:35 PM
OAKLAND, California --The Hans Reiser murder trial slogged through its second day of Week 5 on Tuesday as the prosecution put on two witnesses in an ongoing bid to convince jurors that the Linux programmer's wife, Nina Reiser, was killed and did not vanish as the husband claims.
Prosecutor Paul Hora maintains the maker of open-source file systems killed his wife last year to end a bitter divorce and custody battle over their two young children, now 6 and 8. The woman was last seen Sept. 3, 2006, the day she brought the two children to her husband's Oakland hills house.
Hans Reiser, the developer of the ReiserFS filing system, has pleaded not guilty and remains jailed without bail. The defense: His 31-year-old wife moved back to Russia where she was born, to where the couple met.
The prosecution has spent the entire trial in an attempt to disprove that theory. It may not be for a week or more until Hora moves into the forensic evidence stage.
Among the evidence are trace amounts of Nina's blood found in the Oakland hills house and on a sleeping bag cover found in Hans Reiser's car, which was missing the passenger seat.
On Tuesday, Hora put on Oakland bankruptcy attorney Darya Druch, who testified Nina Reiser was going to file for bankruptcy protection before she started a new job with the City of San Francisco. Instead, she never showed up for her Sept. 20 filing appointment. She was in debt more than $80,000, Druch testified.
"She wanted a fresh start," Druch testified.
The defense, however, seized on $7,000 in cash the woman told Druch she had, in a bid to raise suspicion with jurors that there is an unknown, perhaps hidden side to the woman. On cross examination, defense attorney William DuBois wondered aloud how the woman had $7,000 in cash, paid her rent and did not have a job. "Did you ask her how she was able to save $7,000 in cash?" DuBois asked.
Druch said she did not.
On Monday, the missing woman's former landlord said some of her $2,100 rent checks came from Sean Sturgeon, Hans Reiser's former best friend who was having an affair with Nina.
Throughout the morning session, jurors sat stone faced here in Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman's courtroom. The trial is still in the so-called piling-on stage, with one witness after the other describing the woman in glowing terms.
Toward that end, a teacher at the Oakland private elementary school where the Reiser's young son attended echoed a half-dozen others, saying Tuesday it was impossible that Nina Reiser would voluntarily leave her children.
"What kind of mom did you see her to be?" Hora asked witness Deserae McClindon Bright.
"She was loving."
A few moments later, Hora asked: "Do you think that, uhm, in your opinion, that Nina would be the type of parent that would voluntarily abandon her children?"
On Monday, a different teacher at the Oakland school said the Reisers' young son, now 8, was unruly and that the boy said women should not have a voice.
On cross examination Tuesday, DuBois asked Bright: "You heard stories about how he acted with other teachers, but he didn't act that way with you?"
Trial is recessing until Wednesday morning here. Expect testimony from Ellen Doren, the missing woman's best friend.
Nina Reiser's Best Friend Was Panicking: 'I Did Not Know Where Nina Was' -- Update
By David Kravets on December 12, 2007 | 4:01:57 PM
OAKLAND, California -- Nina Reiser's best friend took the witness stand here Wednesday at Hans Reiser's murder trial, reliving for jurors her emotional disarray following her friend's disappearance last year. "I was panicking. I did not know where Nina was."
All the while, Hans Reiser, the developer of once popular Linux file systems, rested his elbow on the defense table and propped his head with his chin on palm, sometimes gazing at the witness who described his wife's final days before she went missing. Like a dozen witnesses before, Ellen Doren testified it was impossible Nina Reiser would abandon her children as Hans Reiser claims.
"Would she have been the kind of mother that would just vanish and abandon her children?" prosecutor Paul Hora asked in the midst of the trial's fifth week here. Her answer was nearly identical to the many others. "Absolutely not."
Doren recollected a telephone conversation with Hans Reiser's wife the day she vanished, Sept. 3, 2006. She described Nina and Hans fighting over who would have custody of their two young children that Labor Day weekend of Sept. 3, 2006. She also said she had plans to meet Nina Reiser for dinner later that evening.
"Was that the last time you ever talked to her?" prosecutor Paul Hora asked. "Did you ever talk to her again."
The witness shook her head no.
Prosecutor Hora is seizing on witness after witness to affix color and character to Nina Reiser in an effort to convince jurors that the woman did not disappear. Nina, at 31, has not been seen or heard from since she dropped off the two children to her husband's house in the Oakland hills after she agreed to share custody that Labor Day weekend.
The day's session, while at times emotional as Doren broke down on the stand, was similar to days before. Jurors took notes, seesawing their necks with the testimony while they settled in for what could be two or more months of trial here in Alameda County Superior Court. All the while, Doren appeared both frightened and angry on the stand, telling jurors that her friend would not have missed picking up her children from school the day after the holiday "if she was alive."
"The kids were her life," she said of the Reiser children, a boy 8 and a girl now 6.
The husband, 43, has pleaded not guilty and maintains his estranged wife, who was divorcing him, abandoned their children and returned to Russia, where the couple met. Their children are living in Russia with Nina's mother and father.
Prosecutors claim the husband killed the woman after she dropped off the children; the motive was to end an acrimonious divorce and bitter child custody battle. A body has never been found. Hora has been producing one witness after the other to paint a picture that the mother would never run away, even during an intense divorce.
Testimony surrounding forensic evidence is expected soon. The defense should get the case perhaps in January, and the defendant is expected to take the stand.
As to the couple's divorce, Doren said it was fostered by a disagreement between Hans and Nina about rearing their children. To the mother's objection, Doren testified, the husband exposed the kids to violent videogames and movies.
"She told me that her and Hans had very different views of raising children," Doren said. Doren testified about Hans objecting to the manner in which the children were schooled. "'No teacher is as smart as a computer,'" Doren recollected her friend describing a statement by Hans Reiser. (The defendant, wearing a dark coat, smiled and shrugged off the statement.)
An elderly woman juror's pen ran out of ink, so Doren's testimony halted momentarily as she was describing one of the final times she spoke on the phone with Nina Reiser, days before she went missing.
"She was joking, telling me what happened that morning," Doren said, noting that Reiser's mother called Nina, asking if she could come over that morning and help get the two kids ready for school.
"Did did you have any idea at the upcoming weekend she was going to disappear?" Hora asked.
She said the final conversation she had with Nina was Sunday morning, hours before she vanished. She said Nina and Hans were fighting over who would have the kids for the three-day holiday weekend. She testified that Nina, on the advice of her boyfriend, Anthony Zografos, agreed to share custody.
"What did the two of you discuss that Sunday morning?" Hora asked.
"She said that she is following Anthony's advice not to fight with Hans. She decided to split the weekend. She said she was going to take the children over to Hans' house," Doren testified.
Doren testified Nina Reiser did not make a 6 p.m. dinner the two scheduled for that evening.
"I left her a message, asking her where she was," Doren said.
"Then what, what did you do next?"
"I kept waiting for her. She wasn't there. I kept calling her."
Two days after the woman vanished, Doren testified that she called the police and Hans Reiser. She asked him if he knew of her whereabouts.
She said he replied: "'I need to talk to my lawyer.'"
The ongoing theme of the trial continues. As much as prosecutor Hora elicits testimony glorifying the woman, defense attorney William DuBois does the opposite in a bid to entice jurors to believe there were a lot of unknowns about the woman -- enough so that she might leave her children.
DuBois tried to bring home to jurors that Doren, Nina's best friend, didn't know her that well, that there was a secret side to her.
"Did Nina ever tell you that she looked on the net for men to have sexual relationships with?" DuBois asked, referring to searches found on the missing woman's computer.
"Are you aware Nina looked online to find men to have sex with?" he asked. "If she was, she didn't discuss it with you?"
"Right," she responded.
The judge nearly held DuBois in contempt. DuBois told Doren that the Reiser's boy said he saw his mom leave and drive away after Nina dropped him off. The boy did not say that in his earlier testimony. At most, he testified he hugged his mom goodbye. (Prosecutors maintain the woman never left the house alive.)
She testified Wednesday that the boy told her that his father ordered him downstairs and not to come up while the father and mother were arguing.
"Mr. DuBois, if you comment on the evidence that's not before the jury one more time, I'm going to fine you in contempt," the judge said. "I know what you're doing and you know what you are doing, Mr. DuBois. I'm warning you."
DuBois continued on the same line.
"In chambers," Judge Larry Goodman proclaimed.
Moments later, they returned and DuBois changed course.
Witnesses: Hans Reiser Acting Strange After Wife Went Missing -- Update
By David Kravets on December 13, 2007 | 3:53:38 PM
OAKLAND, California -- Two witnesses testified at Hans Reiser's murder trial Thursday they saw him acting strangely in the days following his wife's disappearance.
"When he came in, he was very nervous-like," testified Natalie Potter, a supervisor at an Oakland after-school daycare facility where the Reisers' two young children were enrolled.
"He was not calm at all," Potter added.
The testimony, elicited by prosecutors in a bid to raise doubts about the defendant's defense, came as Week 5 of the Linux programmer's murder trial was nearing conclusion.
The husband is accused of killing his wife Nina during the Labor Day weekend last year to finish a bitter divorce and custody battle over their two children, now 6 and 8. The wife was last seen Sunday, Sept. 3, when she dropped off their two young children for Hans to watch.
The maker of open-source file systems has pleaded not guilty and claims his wife returned to Russia, where the couple met, leaving her children behind. Authorities say the 31-year-old woman never left the house alive.
Another witness, an Oakland neighbor, testified he saw the defendant, the operator of Namesys, wearing heavy clothes and washing down his driveway on a warm, late night two days after the wife brought over the children.
"I'm a late-night person. ... Between the hours of 10 and 11 I was watering my deck plants. I could hear watering across the street. I noticed that Hans was across the street, watering his driveway," neighbor Jack Stabb testified.
Stabb said he was on his upstairs deck and saw the defendant across the street below, in the driveway in front of the Oakland hills house Hans Reiser shared with his mother. (The mother, Beverly Palmer, was away at the Burning Man festival that holiday weekend.)
"Why was it something you took note of?" prosecutor Paul Hora asked.
"It was even odd for Hans," Stabb replied. "We never see Hans participating in any exterior activities in the house -- cleaning and watering. He just kind of comes and goes. I thought it was kind of strange. ... 'What are you doing, washing the driveway?'"
"You couldn't tell what the purpose of his activity was, could you?".
The witness said it was a hot summer night, with nearly a full moon.
"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.
Outside of court, defense attorney William DuBois declined to explain what his client was doing in the driveway or why he showed up, unannounced, at his children's daycare on Sept. 5, 2006, when it was his wife's day to pick up the kids.
"We will put all of the pieces of the puzzle together," DuBois told THREAT LEVEL.
Regarding the driveway cleaning, the authorities found the passenger side of the 43-year-old defendant's tiny Honda CRX dripping wet, and the passenger seat was missing. Stabb, however, said he did not have direct vision of the driveway, and could not say for sure whether a car was being washed.
"It just didn't make sense what he was doing out there," Stabb testified.
On cross examination, Stabb said that he and the defendant sometimes fought over precious parking in their Oakland hills neighborhood.
During a break, prosecutor Hora declined to discuss Stabb and Potter's testimony. But during his questioning with Stabb, Hora noted again that there was a huge, wooded area adjacent to the neighborhood. (The authorities and volunteers searched the area for Nina; no body was found.)
Potter, the daycare witness, said the defendant showed up to the children's daycare on Sept. 5, demanding a meeting to discuss the school's policy. He showed up at the time his wife was supposed to get the children.
He said he was not there to pick up the kids, who eventually left with Nina's best friend, Ellen Doren.
"He was not specific with what he wanted to talk about," Potter testified. "He wanted to set up a meeting for some other time."
"From that day forward," prosecutor Hora asked, "did you ever hear from Hans?"
A woman from Bay Area Community Resources, a social services agency that was working in conjunction with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, testified that the agency had hired Nina Reiser to work with Russian immigrants. She was offered the job Aug. 31, Mary Jo Williams, an agency director, testified.
Williams testified that Nina Reiser interviewed twice for the job.
"She was competent, smart and very likeable," Williams testified.
Williams testified that, while negotiating to accept the $50,000 annual job, Nina Reiser "wanted to make sure that we could be flexible around the hours."
"Her kids were very important to her and she wanted to be there for them," Williams testified. "She asked us directly if we could be flexible on the hours."
"Did you get the impression from Nina that it was kids first, job second?" Hora asked.
Williams said she accepted the job Sept. 1, 2006, two days before she was last seen.
"Did she seem excited?"
Williams testified that Nina Reiser missed a Sept. 7 appointment to fill out paperwork for her health benefits and to get fingerprinted. She also did not show up for her first day, Sept. 21, Williams said.
"We were hoping she would come back, that we would hear from her," Williams said.
On cross examination, DuBois grilled Williams, suggesting that Nina Reiser did not show up Sept. 7 because she was afraid of getting fingerprinted.
"You told her that you were going to be submitting her fingerprints to see if she had any type of record?"
"And she never showed up for the fingerprints, right?"
Nina Reiser, however, supplied fingerprints for her U.S. citizenship application.
The day's fourth witness, Christopher Bunn, testified that he called police on Sept. 9, 2006, after seeing a gold-colored Honda minivan parked outside his Oakland home, three miles from Hans Reiser's house. The van turned out to be Nina's. In it was more than $100 in food, including milk, sour cream and other perishables.
My neighbors and I had noticed a gold minivan parked outside my house," Bunn testified. "It was unusual because we thought it had been there for several days."
Trial broke for the day and resumes Monday. THREAT LEVEL is providing gavel-to-gavel coverage.
Witnesses Describing Motive and Method in Hans Reiser Murder Trial -- Update
By David Kravets on December 17, 2007 | 4:06:48 PM
OAKLAND, California -- Week six in the Hans Reiser murder trial began Monday combining both motive and method, at least according to how prosecutors want jurors to see it, over why and how the Linux programmer's wife was killed.
The defendant, the developer of the once popular, open-source file systems, has pleaded not guilty. He claims wife Nina Reiser, who was divorcing him, moved back to Russia where they met, abandoning their young children, now 6 and 8. He remains jailed here without bail.
One witness, a former Olympic judo coach who awarded the defendant a black belt, testified Hans Reiser was proficient at choking, a popular move in that sport. Prosecutor Paul Hora alluded to that method of murder during his opening statements. Testimony by judo expert Willy Cahill was the first time jurors heard from somebody other than prosecutors attesting to the defendant's high-level skills at the martial arts.
Another witness, Stanford children's doctor Peter Koltai, testified that the defendant accused his wife of having Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, a rare disease where mothers invent illnesses for their children so they can be operated on. That has been a recurring theme throughout the trial - that Hans Reiser was accusing his wife of having that disorder. The doctor was the first medical professional to discount that theory.
So begins another week in the drawn out Hans Reiser Murder Trial, which is expected to conclude in February or beyond.
Cahill's testimony was also the first time following Hora's opening statements that jurors were told about Reiser being a black belt. Cahill said Reiser excelled at the various choking methods.
"What happens when you choke somebody in front," Hora asked Cahill.
"They pass out."
"How long does it take?"
"It depends on how good you are. It only takes a couple of seconds."
Authorities speculate Nina Reiser was murdered on Sept. 3, 2006, after she brought her and the defendant's two young children to Hans Reiser's house in the Oakland hills for the Labor Day weekend. The two were enduring a bitter custody battle and divorce, and repeatedly fought over how they should rear their kids, a girl now 6 and a boy, 8.
Toward that end, Koltai, the Stanford doctor, testified that he diagnosed the Reiser's boy with severe hearing loss and recommended ear and nose surgery -- a common procedure. He said the defendant told him he would sue if he performed the operation.
He said the defendant claimed Nina Reiser had Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.
"He told me he was firmly opposed to the child having surgery, that the child didn't need surgery," Koltai testified. "He felt Nina was engaging in what he called Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy."
After the doctor explained the disease to jurors, he said. "It was certainly not a case of that." The boy had the surgery because the courts had awarded full medical custody of the children to her.
The doctor said the boy's ears were so bad that the child's hearing was akin to somebody going through life with noise being muffled by fingers in one's ear, all of which was cured with the surgery.
On cross examination, defense attorney William DuBois speculated that animal dander and other allergies were the cause of the boy's hearing problem, and grilled the doctor to get him to admit that the defendant discussed that with him on the telephone.
The doctor, however, didn't bite. He said he remembered the telephone conversation.
"I don't recall that piece of the conversation on the telephone with Hans," the doctor said.
"Let's see if I can refresh your memory," DuBois replied.
DuBois may have taken it too far.
"It was such a unique conversation in its context. It was hard to forget. It almost gave me the chills," Koltai continued.
The doctor added that "It was bizarre."
While responding to questions to the prosecutor, the doctor said "I felt I was being manipulated."
He stared down at the defendant. "I really don't like that," the doctor said.
Cahill, the defendant's judo instructor, said the programmer's martial arts style was "aggressive" and "passive."
DuBois asked Cahill whether he confronted Hans Reiser about his missing wife.
"You asked him if he killed his wife?" "Is that right?" DuBois continued.
"What did he say?"
"That's hearsay," Hora objected.
"Do you want me to answer that?" Cahill asked.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman replied: "No don't answer that."
An Alameda County Jail inmate testified that, when he was in the pen with Reiser in February, the defendant's interest peaked when a morning newscast aired discussing the discovery of a body missing in the Oakland hills.
"It' was Channel 2 news saying they had found a body in the Oakland Hills and they would talk about it after the commercial," testified Arthur Gomez.
Gomez's red jail smocks were emblazoned with "5XL Alameda County Jail." He was doing two weeks for failing a drug test, in violation of his probation after being convicted of beating his girlfriend.
"Tell us how you recall the defendant reacted to that footage that morning?" prosecutor Hora asked.
"He was up on the TV, he was like looking at it," Gomez testified. Gomez's facial expression -- which was attempting to portray how the defendant looked at the time -- appeared like a hungry man, one watching a waitress deliver a steaming hot steak to the restaurant table.
"When he heard it was an African American man, he got up... He seemed relieved," Gomez said.
Gomez's testimony got off track, as he described how he was convicted at least twice for domestic violence, for beating his girlfriend.
"I've had my share of domestics. When I seen that reaction, ya know, to me, it was like, 'Did they find her? Did they find her body?' That's just pure evil. That's the ultimate if you wanna take somebody's life."
On cross examination, DuBois asked: "You don't call that evil, beating the woman you are living with?
He said the authorities offered him no favors for his testimony.
A different witness, Artem Mishin testified that he met up with Hans Reiser at the Oakland courthouse last year, two weeks after Nina Reiser went missing. He said he showed up to the defendant's custody battle to be a character witness for his friend. (The children were eventually awarded custody to the woman's parents in Russia. This is actually false. Nina's parents essentially absconded with the children and the U.S. court system, and press, either falsified, or ignored, the issue.)
When he met Hans Reiser that morning in the courthouse, "I called him Scott," Mishin testified, referring to Scott Peterson, who is on California's death row for murdering his wife, Laci.
He said Hans Reiser was busy speaking to his lawyer and took no notice of the statement.
Testimony resumes here Monday. A Redwood City police officer is to recall pulling over the defendant for speeding days after Nina Reiser vanished.
Traffic Officer Says He Saw No Blood on Reiser's Car Seat -- Update
By David Kravets on December 18, 2007 | 3:28:36 PM
OAKLAND, California -- A police officer testified in the Hans Reiser murder trial Tuesday that he pulled over the defendant for a traffic violation nine days after the Linux programmer's wife went missing and noticed no signs the vehicle was used to dispose of a body.
Prosecutors theorize Hans Reiser killed his wife, who was divorcing him, on Sept. 3 after she dropped off their two young children for the Labor Day weekend at his house in the Oakland hills. The maker of open-source file systems has pleaded not guilty, maintaining his wife abandoned her children and moved to Russia, where the couple met nearly a decade ago.
The authorities have suggested Reiser, 43, possibly moved Nina Reiser's body in his tiny Honda CRX. A week after the random traffic stop, Oakland authorities discovered the vehicle drenched on the inside with the passenger seat missing. Authorities said inside the car they found a trace amount of the 31-year-old woman's blood on a sleeping bag cover.
The officer, Sgt. Eric Stasiak of the Redwood City Police Department, said the vehicle looked like the defendant was living in it. The passenger seat, he said, was in the car. The defendant's attorney claims the husband at one point removed the seat and discarded it in a dumpster to make way for the defendant to live in the 1988 vehicle.
Defense attorney William DuBois asked Stasiak whether he remembered "anything about the passenger seat that was unusual?"
DuBois continued querying the officer who patrols Redwood City, a small town about 25 miles southwest of here.
"Let's say you saw it covered in blood. Would that make you want to investigate it?"
The officer said he ticketed the defendant for making an unsafe U-turn and let him go five minutes later.
"It was very dirty inside," the officer said of the two-door, two-seater he stopped the evening of Sept. 12, 2006.
"Sort of like it was lived in almost?" DuBois asked.
"That's what it appeared to me," the officer said.
All the while, the defendant, wearing the same dark coat he has worn throughout the trial, nodded in approval as his attorney peppered the officer.
An Oakland police officer took the stand and reviewed for jurors some of the items found in Nina Reiser's minivan, which was found abandoned in Oakland a few miles away from her husband's residence. In it, according to Bruce Christensen, were groceries -- some of them rotting, the woman's purse filled with the usual contents, including a cell phone. Also inside was a $2,100 rent check the woman signed for her landlord.
The battery to her mobile phone was removed, Christensen testified.
"The battery was just loose in the bottom of the purse," he testified.
(During his opening remarks six weeks ago, prosecutor Hora noted for jurors that a person's whereabouts cannot be traced via cell phone towers if a mobile phone's battery is removed.)
Christopher Weimer, the director of Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions in Berkeley, testified that Nina Reiser was taking courses to prepare for the first of three medical exams to become a licensed doctor in the United States. She was a gynecologist in Russia.
She last showed up at the Berkeley site three days before she vanished, Weimer testified.
Later on, jurors were shown pictures of the inside of Hans Reiser's Honda CRX. Some of the pictures zeroed in on where the passenger seat once was. District attorney investigator Bruce Brock, using a red laser, pointed out a large metal lip, about 2-3 inches high, on the car's floorboard where the passenger seat screws into.
Reiser removed the seat, according to his attorney, to sleep in the car. The authorities had been searching his house.
Prosecutor Hora also brought into the courtroom and showed jurors a similar seat to the missing seat. Brock said he purchased it from a local salvage yard. It was pure theatrics, in a bid to leave jurors wondering whether the original seat carried a dead body.
Trial is recessed until Jan. 14.
Hans Reiser Murder Trial Resumes After Three-Week Recess
By David Kravets on January 14, 2008 | 4:02:19 PM
OAKLAND, California -- The Hans Reiser murder trial resumed here Monday after a three-week holiday recess.
Reiser is the 44-year-old developer of Linux open-source file systems who is accused of killing Nina Reiser, his wife who was divorcing him. Nina Reiser has never been seen since Labor Day weekend 2006, after she left the couple's two young children for the holiday to stay with her estranged husband in the Oakland hills house he shared with his mother.
No body has been found and the defendant maintains his wife returned to Russia where the couple met and abandoned her children. The authorities say she never left the house alive.
On the stand throughout the entire morning was Oakland Police Department technician Bruce Christensen. He described dozens upon dozens of photos he had taken.
Some were at the Oakland hills house, including an unfinished basement where there were bags of cement. Some were of Nina Reiser's Oakland apartment and abandoned vehicle discovered blocks away. Still, others were of the Oakland house of his mother's boyfriend, where the Linux guru was arrested a month after his 31-year-old wife vanished.
One picture Christensen took was of a computer screen in the boyfriend's house. On it were headlines, one that read: "Home of Missing Woman's Husband is Searched in Oakland."
More Oakland police officers are expected to testify later in the day. Jurors appeared unmoved by the morning session. Trials are not as they appear on television's "Law and Order." Sometimes sessions are boring, as was the case of this morning's testimony.
For his part, the defendant sat idle throughout the proceeding wearing the same dark coat he donned when the trial started three months ago. He remains jailed without bail. At one point, he interjected when his attorney, William DuBois, was arguing with Judge Larry Goodman to preclude a photo. His lawyer silently told him to quiet down.
So far, nearly three dozen witnesses have taken the stand. Prosecutor Paul Hora is likely to rest his case in a few weeks. The defendant is expected to testify on his own behalf, against his attorney's wishes.
Reiser Eluding Surveillance, Officer Testifies
By David Kravets on January 14, 2008 | 6:33:53 PM
OAKLAND, California -- Days after his wife went missing, Linux guru Hans Reiser performed so-called "counter-surveillance" measures to determine if somebody was following him, a law enforcement official who was tailing him testified here Monday.
Prosecutor Paul Hora put Oakland Police Department officer Shan Johnson on the stand in a bid to sway jurors that the 44-year-old developer of Linux open-source file systems might have been acting on a guilty conscience.
Five days earlier, on Sept. 3, 2006, Hans Reiser's wife disappeared, last seen at her husband's house in the Oakland hills. That is where Nina Reiser dropped off the divorcing couple's two young children for the Labor Day weekend.
The officer testified that the husband increased and decreased his speed on the streets of Oakland, and on the freeway, where he often switched lanes and twice changed directions on Sept. 8, 2006.
"It's a form of counter-surveillance," Johnson testified. "This is consistent of what is common from persons trying to determine if they're being followed."
He said he tailed the husband as the defendant left his Oakland house, when he subsequently took his children to school. Afterward, the officer testified, the husband got some coffee and then sped both directions on a nearby freeway.
The officer was driving an unmarked minivan and Reiser was traveling in a small, gold Honda, the officer testified.
The officer gave up his pursuit after fearing he might have blown his cover.
The prosecution's case here is based largely on circumstantial evidence, as the 31-year-old Nina Reiser has not been seen since she dropped off her two children. Her van was found days later a few blocks away, filled with the rotting groceries she purchased before she left her two young children with her estranged husband.
The husband has pleaded not guilty and claims his wife abandoned the couple's two young children and moved back to Russia, where they met. Officer Johnson testified that he found the woman's passport in her apartment and about $1,980 in cash in Nina's desk drawer.
"Usually when somebody travels abroad, they use their passports to enter and exit the country," Johnson said.
On cross examination, defense attorney William DuBois asked: "If Nina Reiser left the country using a different name, there's no way for you to know it?"
"No sir," Johnson replied.
Moments before, the officer testified that he seized the woman's razor, underwear and other personal items to obtain her DNA. Her DNA profile matched a speck of blood found at the Oakland hills house and on a sleeping bag cover discovered in Hans Reiser's automobile.
The officer also said hundreds of volunteers and search dogs combed the Oakland hills wilderness looking for the woman.
Trial broke for the day. Johnson is to resume the witness stand Tuesday. About 10 more police officers are expected to testify in the coming days.
Cop: Foliage on Nina Reiser's Tires 'Consistent' with Leaf in Hans Reiser's Car -- Update
By David Kravets on January 15, 2008 | 3:42:03 PM
OAKLAND, California -- A police officer testified in the Hans Reiser murder trial here Tuesday that foliage discovered on the tires of his missing wife's van was "consistent" with a leaf found inside a vehicle used by the defendant.
Reiser, the developer of Linux, open-source file systems, is accused of murdering Nina Reiser, his wife who was divorcing him. She was last seen Sept. 3, 2006 after she dropped off the couple's two young children to the house in the Oakland hills where Hans Reiser was living. Her minivan was found abandoned a few miles away, with rotting groceries in it she had purchased on her way to her estranged husband's house. (Jurors got a quick glimmer of the market's time-stamped surveillance tape showing the woman and her children in the store.)
Oakland Police Department officer Shan Johnson testified that the material on the tires of the woman's minivan was "consistent" with a "cherry or a plum tree as well as other plants." In the small Honda Hans Reiser was borrowing from his mother, the authorities found a single leaf "consistent with a cherry tree material," Johnson testified.
The officer was grilled on cross examination by defense attorney William DuBois, who wanted to debunk any connection between what was found on the woman's van and inside the car that the 44-year-old Hans Reiser was driving.
"Did you ever determine the source of that leaf? What cherry tree it came from?"
"Where was the leaf when you first saw it?"
"On the floorboard of the passenger side of the car."
"Were there any leafs inside the minivan?"
"Not to my knowledge. No."
All the while, the defendant gazed at his attorney to his left. Much of his pasty white skin was covered by the same dark dress coat he has donned since his trial began here three months ago. Jurors appeared un-animated.
Hans Reiser faces a life sentence if convicted. He remains jailed without bail. He says his 31-year-old wife left to Russia, where the couple met, and abandoned their two young children.
No body has been discovered. So the case is based largely on circumstantial evidence.
There is no direct evidence linking him to a murder. Forensic evidence includes specks of the woman's blood found inside the husband's residence and on a sleeping bag cover discovered in his vehicle.
Circumstantial evidence includes him trying to elude undercover officers who were following him; Reiser coincidently showing up to pick up his children from school the day after his wife went missing; and among other things, the front seat of his vehicle went missing after his wife vanished.
After the lunch break....
The trial veers toward the dumb, the boring and to the embarrassing.
Starting with the boring.
Oakland Police Department officer Eugene Guerrero testifies for hours about the dozen or so officials who tailed Reiser on Sept.18, 2006, two weeks after his wife went missing. The authorities were searching for his vehicle, and they discovered it after tracking him as he walked through the streets of Berkeley.
The officer testified that the defendant exercised so-called "counter-surveillance" measures during his walk to the car.
The officer testified that, during Reiser's 32-minute jaunt, he was "turning around and retracing his steps...looking around in all directions."
When the defendant finally got to his car, Guerrero testified, "He looked around in all four directions before getting in the vehicle and driving away."
Moving to the dumb.
Jurors, who appeared half asleep by now, or perhaps half awake, were treated with a video displayed on a large monitor of Guerrero being filmed as he retraced Hans Reiser's steps through Berkeley. The heavy-set officer, who testified he was pretending to be Hans Reiser, kept peering around suspiciously as he walked.
He was wearing a large, plainclothes shirt and sometimes walked with a slight hunch -- mirroring the infamous Big Foot footage.
And onto the embarrassing.
That is, if you're Henry K. Lee, the San Francisco Chronicle newsman blogging the trial here.
Prosecutor Paul Hora showed a snippet of a Sept. 28, 2006 newscast where the defendant is seen running from a local news crew, with Lee (depicted on screen at left wearing blue shirt) running after the defendant seeking a quote. Lee was clinging to his reporter's notebook and holding on for dear life to his trademarked folder filled with crossword and sudoku puzzles.
Suffice it to say, Bay Area sports fans should be pleased -- as should Bay Area Chronicle readers -- that Lee chose journalism rather than Olympic track and field. And if you're wondering, he didn't get the quote. Here's a link to Lee's blog.
Guerrero resumes the stand Wednesday, to be followed by several other officers for days more.
Hans Reiser Defense Priming Jurors for Closing Arguments -- Update
By David Kravets on January 16, 2008 | 3:53:54 PM
OAKLAND, California -- A police officer on Wednesday testified here in the Hans Reiser murder trial that the Linux programmer was under heavy surveillance following the 2006 disappearance of his wife, Nina Reiser.
Under intense cross examination, Oakland Police Department officer Eugene Guerrero said the Oakland authorities set up as many as nine watches of the defendant before he was arrested and charged with murdering his 31-year-old wife. The woman, who was divorcing him, has never been seen since she dropped off their two young children at her husband's Oakland hills house on Sept. 3, 2006.
"How many times have you surveilled Mr. Reiser?" defense attorney William DuBois asked.
"Seven, eight, nine times," Guerrero responded.
Much of Guerrero's testimony at first glimpse seemed to cast the defendant in a bad light. But it was gleaned by DuBois in an effort to prime the jury for his closing arguments in a bid to cast the police as being overzealous in their bid to nab the defendant.
DuBois, in short, is gathering ammunition that the authorities immediately glommed on to his client as a suspect and sank a lot of manpower -- including airplane surveillance -- into nailing his client. With no other leads, Hans Reiser was charged, or so the theory goes.
On Tuesday, for example, DuBois was careful to elicit testimony from Oakland Police officer Shan Johnson that the authorities viewed Hans Reiser as a suspect as early as Sept. 8, 2006, five days after his wife vanished.
Regarding the surveillance, DuBois kept grilling Guerrero until Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman interjected: "Bill, we've been on this witness ad nauseam."
The defendant, now 44, has pleaded not guilty and faces a life sentence of convicted. The developer of open-source file systems maintains his wife moved back to Russia, where the couple met, and abandoned her two young children. The authorities suspect the husband killed his wife to end a bitter divorce and custody battle.
The judge, prosecutor Paul Hora and DuBois then began haggling over whether a officer Johnson had previously testified in a preliminary hearing that he believed Hans Reiser knew he was being followed by the authorities.
DuBois is trying to convince jurors that Reiser did know he was being followed, in a bid to explain his bizarre behavior of backtracking on the freeway, making unnecessary lane changes and peering around while walking.
"Why did he hide his car if he didn't know he was being followed?" DuBois asked Guerrero, who was called to the stand by Hora. "How did you reach that conclusion?"
Guerrero replied: "Instead of taking the vehicle to his residence, he parked it somewhere else."
Police discovered the tiny Honda CRX in the streets of Berkeley on Sept. 18, 2006, after following the defendant on a 32-minute walk.
When police seized the vehicle, the passenger seat was missing. Authorities suspect the defendant at one point placed his wife's dead body there. Hans Reiser said he removed the seat to sleep in his car.
The defense is not expected to put on its case for weeks.
It was more of the same. Taking the stand were three officers who participated in monitoring the defendant before his arrest Oct. 10, 2006.
Their testimony did not add much for jurors, who appear clearly withered by the duration of the trial -- three dozen witnesses in three months. The three officers' testimony essentially was an abbreviated repeat of earlier testimony of by their fellow officers.
Yet one thing stood out. And it's a point prosecutor Hora has been reliving for jurors over and again.
Hora showed jurors pictures of the inside and outside of Hans Reiser's small Honda vehicle that the two officers snapped before the vehicle was seized.
"Did you notice anything unusual about the passenger's side of the car?" Hora asked Oakland Police Department officer James Saleda, who was one of the photographers.
"It was missing the seat."
Criminalist Testifies That Blood Was Found In Reiser House -- Update
By David Kravets on January 17, 2008 | 4:00:42 PM
OAKLAND, California -- Jurors judging the murder trial of Linux guru Hans Reiser were provided a glimpse into the prosecution's forensic evidence -- trace amounts of "nice shiny red" blood found inside the defendant's house -- the last place his wife Nina Reiser was seen alive.
Todd Weller, a forensic scientist with the Oakland Police Department, confirmed that the authorities found blood in the Oakland hills house nine days after the 31-year-old went missing Sept. 3, 2006.
Prosecutor Paul Hora has already told jurors that blood was found in the house, but it was the first time that a forensic specialist had said so.
Todd Weller, an Oakland Police Department criminalist, testified the blood was found on a pillar in the house. A photo of it showed the blood was about 2 centimeters long and appeared much fresher than other, flaky blood stains found inside a bathroom cabinet, Weller testified. The pillar was next to a door in the residence's entryway.
The trial broke for lunch before jurors were told the blood on the pillar came from both Hans Reiser and Nina Reiser -- evidence established in pretrial proceedings of the case. Still, Weller said it was not possible to determine how old the blood was, but said new blood has a "nice shiny red appearance."
"But I just can't tell you how old it is," he testified. "It would just be a guess."
The defendant, the maker of open-source Linux file systems, has pleaded not guilty and remains jailed without bail. He says he did not murder the wife who was divorcing him. He maintains the 31-year-old woman moved back to Russia, where the couple met and abandoned her two young children.
The authorities said the husband killed the woman to end a bitter divorce and custody battle. They say she never left the Oakland hills house alive on Sept. 3, 2006, when she brought the divorcing couple's two children over to stay with their father for part of the long holiday weekend.
Before the forensic testimony began, Weller spent an hour going over what the authorities discovered in the van Nina Reiser was driving before she vanished. She went grocery shopping immediately before she dropped off the two young children. Her abandoned minivan filled with rotting groceries was discovered days later in a residential neighborhood a couple miles away from Hans Reiser's residence.
The woman's purse and wallet were stuffed with credit and insurance cards, $94 in cash and appointment reminders for the dentist and salon, among other items.
Weller testified that he found a dozen fingerprints throughout the van. None, however, matched the defendant's.
There were also two child car seats, children's books, an iPod, and some self-improvement books in the van, Weller testified.
Jurors, who were getting antsy during that slow-moving presentation of the trial, were looking at photographs of the van's contents as Weller described to them what they were seeing.
"That's a stuffed animal stuffed into a cup holder."
Prosecutors initiated a full-out circumstantial-evidence jihad.
Prosecutor Hora continued showing jurors all sorts of pictures while examining Weller, who even took pictures of the unfinished basement of the defendant's house -- the house you may recall where Hora has said Nina Reiser never left alive.
One picture was of two shovels and a pick, all apparently unused.
"What was the condition of these digging tools?" Hora asked.
"They looked new, unused," Weller said.
Then the 12 jurors and four alternates were shown a picture of a blood stain found on the light switch in the basement. There was also blood spots found in several other areas in the Oakland hills house, including a pillow, underneath a mattress and such, Weller testified throughout the afternoon.
But the only relevant blood to the prosecution was the blood found on the pillar, and on a sleeping bag cover in Hans Reiser's vehicle. The DNA from those blood samples matches the blood from the missing woman.
Defense attorney William DuBois took his turn, replaying much of what Hora had covered. But he also successfully injected some uncertainty into the government's main piece of forensic evidence, the blood spot on the pillar.
"It could be a day, a week or many months old? Correct?" DuBois asked Weller.
"It could have been a year?" DuBois continued.
Trial is recessed until Tuesday.
Jurors Shown 'Stuff Sack' Stained With Nina Reiser's Blood -- Update
By David Kravets on January 22, 2008 | 4:03:33 PM
OAKLAND, California -- Jurors in the Hans Reiser murder trial for the first time in the three-month trial were shown actual forensic evidence -- a sleeping bag cover that was stained with blood from the missing wife whom the Linux programmer is accused of killing.
"It was really hard to see without high-intensity lighting," Shannon Cavness, an Oakland Police Department criminologist, testified Tuesday.
The sleeping bag cover, which Cavness described as a "stuff sack," was discovered in the 44-year-old defendant's tiny Honda CRX. The blood stain was about six inches wide and a picture of it was shown to jurors on a monitor. The actual sleeping bag cover was brought into the courtroom and shown to jurors.
The bag is one of two pieces of forensic evidence that prosecutor Paul Hora claims shows the developer of open-source file systems killed his wife, Nina Reiser, to end a bitter divorce and custody battle. The rest of the evidence is circumstantial.
The 31-year-old Nina Reiser has not been seen since she dropped off the divorcing couple's two young children at her estranged husband's house in the Oakland hills for the Labor Day weekend on Sept. 3, 2006.
The other piece of forensic evidence is specks of the woman's blood found on a pillar in that Oakland hills house. Pictures of that post were shown to jurors last week and again Tuesday.
The defendant, the operator of Oakland-based Namesys, has pleaded not guilty and faces life in prison if convicted. He claims his wife left the country to Russia, where the couple met, and abandoned their children. He remains jailed without bail.
Cavness also reviewed for jurors pictures of the various items found in the 1988, two-seater Honda CRX.
Absent was the passenger seat. Inside the vehicle was a bunch of trash, a socket set and receipt showing the tools were purchased two weeks after the woman went missing. The bolts to the car seat were also found inside, and the socket on the ratchet matched the 12 millimeter diameter of the seat's bolts.
Jurors were clearly engaged by Cavness' testimony and were glued to her as she pointed to the items found in the car that the authorities brought to the courtroom here in Alameda County Superior Court. Jurors gazed in unison as Cavness described the blood stain that was displayed on a large television prompt.
"There's some discoloration on this item," she said.
All the while, the defendant, wearing the same dark coat he has for months, was peppering his attorney with questions during Cavness' testimony. At one point, defense attorney William DuBois rested his head back, turned his head in circles and waved off the defendant like a dog jiggling water from his head.
Hora has suggested that the defendant used the vehicle to dispose of a body -- and that is the reason, the seat is missing. DuBois said the defendant, 44, was sleeping in the vehicle -- and that's why he removed the seat. DuBois told THREAT LEVEL recently that Hans Reiser tossed the seat in a dumpster.
The vehicle was littered with trash, clothes, a sleeping bag and its cover, some maps, two books about murder and an Oakland Tribune newspaper with a screaming headline describing the authorities searching his Oakland hills residence. Still, it appeared as though the vehicle might have undergone some serious scrubbing. The floorboards were sopping wet, Cavness testified.
Hora showed jurors pictures of puddles of water on those floorboards.
"It looks like in some portions of these divots there's standing water. Is that the way it was?" Hora asked Cavness.
A picture of the outside of the car showed a bumper sticker that read "Practice Random Acts of Kindness, Senseless Acts of Beauty."
(Cavness also unrolled some paper towels found in the vehicle and counted that there were 32 remaining from a 55-pack. It made for good theater. However, the significance of that act was not immediately clear.)
Trial is recessing for lunch.
Cavness is expected to resume on the stand to review how the authorities determined the blood on the sleeping bag cover was Nina Reiser's.
DuBois, in his opening statement, explained the blood from the defense's viewpoint: The blood may have gotten there during happier times for the couple, before they were divorcing, when they slept in the sleeping bag together, he said.
After the lunch break...
Cavness, the Oakland Police Department criminologist, testified that the DNA in the blood discovered on the sleeping bag cover was found in one of every 45 trillion persons. A DNA testing on Nina Reiser's underwear, contact lens cases and razor was a direct match, Cavness testified. Police seized the personal items from the woman's Oakland apartment.
"That means if we had 45 trillion people, one person would match this exact profile?" prosecutor Hora asked.
Also on that sleeping bag (stuff-sack) was blood found on one in 1 billion persons, Cavness testified. She said the sample matched a sample provided by the defendant.
Cavness gave a brief overview of DNA, saying it "is the blueprint of life. It is in every nucleated cell."
Regarding the blood on the pillar, she said it was also a match to the DNA found on Nina Reiser's personal items -- "the same as the underpants."
Cavness is expected to resume the stand here Wednesday and undergo intense cross examination.
Reiser Prosecution Wobbles Under Police Forensics Gaffe -- Update
By David Kravets on January 23, 2008 | 3:05:18 PM
OAKLAND, California -- A forensic specialist testified here Wednesday she had made a mistake when analyzing blood found in the house where Hans Reiser's wife was last seen.
The fragments of blood, the scientist testified Tuesday, contained DNA from the Linux guru and his wife, Nina Reiser. The authorities discovered it on a pillar in an entryway in the Oakland hills house two weeks after the 31-year-old woman went missing Sept. 3, 2006.
But on Wednesday, the scientist testified on cross examination that errors she made meant it was unclear whether there was two sources of blood -- meaning it could be the wife's or the husband's -- or blood from both of them. She testified she was not "100 percent certain" whose blood was on the pillar.
It's an important distinction. There are two pieces of forensic evidence linking the husband to allegedly killing his wife. The other forensic evidence is a sleeping bag cover found in the defendant's car stained with the woman's blood. The rest of the evidence is circumstantial, including the husband's front passenger seat vanishing.
Defense attorney Richard Tamor suggested that the scientist should have swabbed the pillar in at least two locations -- and the scientist agreed. Swabbing the entire area -- about the size of an iPod Nano -- might have mixed the blood together or might have mixed one source of blood with some other source of DNA, like saliva, testified scientist Shannon Cavness, of the Oakland Police Department.
"If you had to do it again, you would do if differently?" Tamor asked Cavness, regarding her swabbing of the pillar.
Jurors were clearly engaged by the testimony. The defendant, 44, is a renowned programmer of open-source file systems and is jailed without bail. He claims his wife, who was divorcing him, left the country to Russia, where the couple met, and abandoned the estranged couple's two young children.
Tamor asked the scientist: "You swabbed the entire stain. That's a mistake, isn't it?"
"When there is a mixture, and when there is blood involved, you don't know whether two people contributed DNA from blood or whether one person contributed DNA from blood and another contributed from saliva?" Tamor continued.
"I would say that's a problem with the analysis of this particular pillar sample," the scientist responded.
After a short recess, Tamor asked: "You can't tell whose blood that is?"
"The most reasonable answer is that the DNA is from the blood versus coming from some other biological material. I really doubt somebody licked the pillar," the scientist testified.
"That's just an assumption?" Tamor asked.
"I cannot be 100 percent certain," the scientist replied.
The day's session ended early because a staffer for Alameda County Judge Larry Goodman had a personal emergency. Still, it was the first time in the three-month trial where the defendant clearly got the upper hand.
The session spread some seeds of doubt on jurors regarding the forensic evidence. But there's still the woman's blood found on the sleeping bag cover discovered in the defendant's vehicle -- but that's it insofar as the forensic evidence is concerned. And DNA testing cannot determine the age of blood stains.
The remaining evidence is circumstantial. Viewed individually, it could be tossed up as a coincidence. Viewed collectively, that's the jury's job. Here's a brief recap on some of that evidence:
*Nina Reiser is last seen at the defendant's house in the Oakland hills.
*Dozens of witnesses testify that the woman would never voluntarily abandon her children. (The defendant claims his wife left the country to Russia, where she is from and where the couple met, as part of an evil plot. The plot was to marry an American, obtain U.S. citizenship and disappear.)
*Hans Reiser shows up at his kids' school after Nina went missing, but before authorities were alerted. It was his wife's day to pick up the kids.
*His front seat was gone from his vehicle after police discovered it. The floor boards were soaked wet and two books about murder were found inside.
*Days after the woman vanished, the defendant was seen at night washing his driveway or something on the driveway. He was wearing heavy clothes on a hot fall night.
*He exhibited what police said were "counter-surveillance" maneuvers when he thought police were tailing him.
*The defendant told parents at a school party for his children that he'd be better off without his wife.
Cop Testifiying About Mysterious Associate of Nina Reiser -- UPDATE -- He's Her Father
By David Kravets on January 28, 2008 | 3:28:37 PM
OAKLAND, California -- Herman Layrentiev, who are you?
That's the question jurors likely were left wondering here Monday in the Hans Reiser murder trial. The question adds a new flavor of mystery surrounding Nina Reiser, the 31-year-old estranged wife of the Linux programmer who authorities say murdered her in 2006 -- despite a body never being discovered.
A police officer testified here Monday that a man by the name of Herman Layrentiev had co-signed a Chase credit card Nina Reiser had taken out in 2006. The officer said all his investigative tools could not locate the person who helped the wife secure credit.
"I was unable to come up with any match for this man," testified Oakland Police Department officer Michael Weisenberg.
Defense attorney William DuBois asked the officer whether he thought that was "odd."
Hans Reiser claims he did not kill his wife and that she instead returned to Russia, where the couple met, and abandoned her two young children along the way. Weisenberg's testimony left jurors clinging to the possibility that she was associated with somebody whom the authorities have not a clue about -- somebody with a Russian name.
"To this very day, you don't know who this person is?" DuBois asked
"As far as you know, they are invisible from all systems," DuBois asked Weisenberg.
"I don't even know whether this person exists," Weisenberg replied.
The authorities allege the husband, 44, killed his wife to end a bitter divorce and custody battle. Nina Reiser, who was divorcing her husband, was last seen Sept. 3, 2006, after dropping off the couple's two young children to Hans Reiser's residence in the Oakland hills.
Hours later, after the session ended in the afternoon, prosecutor Paul Hora told THREAT LEVEL that the mystery man was Nina's father.
Defense attorney DuBois said that "shows how much depth how much the police went into the investigation that they didn't recognize who her father was. The point is he isn't some mystery man. The point is they didn't even take the time to find out who he was."
After the lunch break, an auditor of a local credit union where Nina Reiser banks testified that the woman's account has $4,500 in it and that activity in the account largely ceased once she disappeared.
"There's $4,500 just sitting into that account?" prosecutor Paul Hora asked Erin Morasch, an auditor with Patelco Credit Union.
The only activity on the account after she went missing, Morasch testified, were automatic payments she had set up to pay her Yahoo e-mail account and another credit card account.
Hora wanted to make clear to jurors that those automatic payments would continue even if the account holder was not alive.
"That transaction could occur if you're dead," Hora asked.
Morasch testified that the woman had recently paid her utility bills and even paid $150 to register her car with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The testimony was gleaned by Hora in a bid to convince jurors that Hora believes Nina Reiser would not voluntarily disappear without her money while keeping her bills up to date.
Earlier testimony showed nearly $2,000 in cash was found in her Oakland apartment, and inside her van the authorities found a $2,100 check made out to her landlord that she never delivered.
Before the lunch break, an Oakland Police Department computer technician testified that two hard drives were missing from a computer discovered at the open-source programmer's residence.
Dennis Castro said scratches inside the computer's shell showed that there were two hard drives. He could not say when the hard drive's were removed.
"Are there scratches consistent with sliding a drive in and out?" Hora asked.
He testified the computer could still operate even without the hard drive. Castro opened the computer for jurors to see where it had been scratched.
"Is there a possibility where the computer could run without a hard drive?" Hora asked.
"Under what circumstances?"
Castro said the computer could work with "boot-up diskettes" and none were found.
Trial is recessing until Tuesday.
Defense Seeks Mistrial in Hans Reiser Murder Case
By David Kravets on January 28, 2008 | 5:21:21 PM
Hans Reiser's defense attorney is seeking a mistrial.
During the lunch break of Monday's court session, defense attoney William DuBois handed THREAT LEVEL and Henry K. Lee of the San Francisco Chronicle a motion he just lodged with the court. It demands Alameda County Judge Larry Goodman to declare a mistrial or to correct for jurors what DuBois termed was a "false statement" by the judge.
At issue is the Dec. 12 session in which DuBois was peppering witness Ellen Doren, Nina Reiser's best friend about what happened the day Nina was last seen Sept. 3, 2006.
It started when DuBois asked Doren: "After Nina dropped off the children at Hans' house and drives away from his house, is there any possibility, any possible way for him to have known where she was going?"
Prosecutor Hora objected. DuBois interjected, and said "It's not irrelevant and there's evidence to support that question?"
It's a huge point of contention. If the woman drove away, that would undermine the authorities' position that the woman never left the house alive.
Goodman then blasted DuBois. "Mr. DuBois, if you comment on the evidence that's not before the jury one more time, I'm going to find you in contempt and that's the end of it."
The exchange was in front of the 12 jurors and four alternates.
Moments later, DuBois kept pursuing the matter, and the judge told jurors that "there's no evidence" that the woman drove away from the house where she was last seen.
The Reiser couple's young son, now 8 years old, had told local child protective services officials and testified before a different judge during a 2006 preliminary hearing that he did see his mother drive away after his mother left him and his little sister for the Labor Day weekend. Before the jury, he did not testify he saw his mother leave the house.
DuBois' motion has not been heard.
Hans Reiser in the Sierra Nevada Mountains 21 Days After Wife Vanished -- UPDATE -- Reiser, Judge Spar
By David Kravets on January 29, 2008 | 3:22:17 PM
OAKLAND, California -- Intrigue set in here Tuesday during the Hans Reiser murder trial.
Reiser, the Linux programmer accused of killing his wife, made several "uncommon" cash withdrawals -- and three ATM transactions in the Sierras -- in the days and weeks after his wife vanish Sept. 3, 2006, a bank auditor testified.
Three transactions totaling about $1,500 in withdrawals occurred in Truckee, California, on Sept. 24, 2006, the auditor testified. Reporters and onlookers in the gallery, and presumably jurors, were wondering what Hans Reiser was doing in the Sierra Nevada mountains, just outside Lake Tahoe.
Did the operator of Namesys, who developed once-popular, open-source file systems, dump a body in the expansive wilderness there? That question begs other questions, such as if the wife was discarded in the Sierras, what happened to the body during the 21 days since she vanished?
The authorities said the woman never left alive Hans Reiser's house in the Oakland hills, where she went Sept. 3 to drop off the divorcing couple's two young children for the Labor Day weekend. They say the husband killed his wife to end a bitter divorce and custody battle.
Police discovered the defendant's small Honda CRX a week before he went to Truckee. Its passenger seat was missing, and a sleeping bag cover was found inside with Nina Reiser's blood stained on it.
Several of the 12 jurors and four alternatives were jotting notes during the hours-long financial testimony. The 44-year-old defendant, wearing the same dark coat he has worn since the trial began three months ago, sat idly. At times, he rested his mouth on his right, curled index finger.
Hans Reiser has pleaded not guilty and remains jailed without bail. He faces a life sentence if convicted. He claims his wife moved to back to Russia, where the couple met, and abandoned the divorcing couple's two young children.
Patelco Credit Union auditor Erin Morasch, on the stand for the second day, testified that the defendant made a series of what he termed "uncommon" transactions in the days and weeks following Nina Reiser's disappearance.
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.
"It's uncommon for members to drive from branch to branch to withdraw cash," Morasch testified.
During a brief break, the defendant's attorney, William DuBois, told THREAT LEVEL his client did not dump a body in the Sierra Nevada wilderness, and did not conceal he went to the Sierras because he withdrew money from an ATM.
"The prosecution is grasping at straws," DuBois said.
Prosecutor Paul Hora declined comment.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman announced he had received a message from jurors asking when the case would end. He said he believed the case, which started Nov. 6, would go to them for deliberations "some time around Feb. 25."
But as in love and war, nothing is certain.
"The best guess we have now is a pretty educated guess," Goodman told jurors.
There have been 360 exhibits introduced and 47 witnesses so far.
Prosecutors are likely to rest their case next week. And the defense will begin thereafter, the judge said. The defendant might testify.
Witness No. 47, Seng Fong, an Alameda County Social Services Agency worker, testified that a juvenile court judge on March 28, 2007 awarded temporary custody of the couple's two young children, a girl now 6 and a boy 8, to the missing woman's parents, who live in Russia.
The defendant's mother and father, and the missing woman's mother, sought custody. So did the defendant, who was arrested Oct. 10, 2006 and jailed without bail.
"He fought for the whole time for the kids. Is that right?" prosecutor Hora asked Fong, referring to the defendant.
She testified that Nina Reiser did not attend the 15 custody hearings regarding the couple's children.
Moments before, when the defendant began speaking with his attorney while Fong was on the witness stand, the judge interjected: "Mr. Reiser. Please. I'm being as tolerant as I can be this afternoon."
To the fury of the judge and Hans Reiser's defense attorney, the defendant regularly speaks with his attorney while witnesses are addressing the jury.
The jury was excused and a back-and-forth verbal volley between the judge and defendant ensued.
The defendant was objecting to Fong testifying that the Alameda County juvenile court has jurisdiction over the children. Case law suggests that the Russian authorities do not have to cooperate with the U.S. courts in this matter, meaning if an Alameda County judge orders the kids returned to the United States, they might not be required to come.
"The U.S. courts don't have the power to compel the kids to return," Reiser told the judge in a light, monotone voice.
Reiser was making that contested view while pointing at the judge. The judge told the defendant not to point at him again, or "You're going to be in serious problems."
Reiser also complained that he was not able to review the evidence against him.
"That's between you and your attorney," the judge said.
Reiser continued, saying there was a disagreement with his lawyers over prepping defense witnesses.
"Are you asking me to fire your lawyer? Is that what you are asking me to do?" the judge asked. "You can fire him any time you want. But that's not going to stop the trial from going forward."
The judge told the defendant that, whether he fires DuBois and co-counsel Richard Tamor, trial resumes Wednesday morning. when Fong again takes the stand.
"You fire him. You go tomorrow with whoever you have," the judge said. "This is becoming absurd, Mr. Reiser."
The defendant and DuBois then held a private meeting for about 10 minutes while the gallery emptied. DuBois announced he and Tamor were still on the case. "We had a nice conciliatory meeting," DuBois quipped.
Judge Threatening to Exclude Hans Reiser From His Murder Trial
By David Kravets on January 30, 2008 | 1:33:50 PM
OAKLAND, California -- The Hans Reiser murder trial picked up Wednesday where it left off the day before, with a back-and-forth dialogue between the judge and defendant.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman threatened the defendant that if he did not quit interrupting his lawyer during the trial, he would be excluded from the proceedings.
"If this continues to get worse, I will simply remove you from this courtroom," Goodman told Reiser, the developer of Linux, open-source file systems who is accused of killing his wife, Nina Reiser.
The defendant often interrupts his main attorney, William DuBois, while witnesses are on the stand, prompting his lawyer to repeatedly ask the court stenographer to read back questions or answers.
"I'm not sure whether you're doing this on purpose to screw up the process or it's just part of your nature," the judge said outside the presence of the jury.
"I'm tired of you disrupting the courtroom," Goodman added.
When court adjourned Tuesday evening, the judge told the defendant he was "absurd" for considering firing his two attorneys. The defendant had pointed at the judge, who scoffed at him to never do that again.
On Wednesday, Reiser's response to the judge's morning comments were inaudible. He was not speaking in the microphone.
"Mr. Reiser, I'm sitting up here watching you the whole time," the judge responded. "I know what you're saying is not true."
Presumably, the defendant is unhappy DuBois is not engaging him while witnesses are on the stand.
"He's waving at you to keep quiet," the judge said.
Reiser, 44, has pleaded not guilty and remains jailed without bail. His 31-year-old wife, Nina Reiser, was last seen Sept. 3, 2006, when she dropped off the divorcing couple's two young children to stay with their father at his Oakland hills house during the Labor Day weekend.
The defendant claims his wife left the country and returned to Russia, where the pair met, and abandoned her two children, a girl now 6 and a boy now 8.
The jury is coming into the courtroom. The exchange between the judge and defendant lasted about 10 minutes.
Defense: Hans Reiser's 'Mental State' Created by Police -- Update
By David Kravets on January 30, 2008 | 3:44:53 PM
OAKLAND, California -- If Hans Reiser's behavior seemed suspicious following his wife's disappearance, thank the Oakland Police Department.
That's what the 44-year-old defendant's defense attorney, William DuBois, said Wednesday at his client's murder trial here.
DuBois made the statement while cross examining an Alameda County social services worker who was charged with removing the Reisers' kids after the mother, Nina, vanished. She was last seen Sept. 3, 2006 after dropping off the divorcing couple's two young children to stay with their father at his Oakland hills house for the Labor Day weekend.
DuBois said Child Protective Services was used by police "as a vehicle to drive my client into a condition where they can describe his conduct as unusual and consistent with consciousness of guilt, when as a matter of fact his mental state was created in large part by the Oakland Police Department."
Judge Larry Goodman asked what DuBois was doing. DuBois responded that he was trying to show bias with the Oakland Police Department who immediately fingered the popular open-source computer programmer. Fong testified that the department, following the woman's disappearance, provided false information to the juvenile custody court that Nina Reiser had sole custody of the children before she went missing.
She did not.
Reiser was arrested Oct. 10, 2006, and his two small children had already been taken away by the authorities. They now live in Russia, with the missing woman's parents.
"In this case it was misinformation from the police department," testified Seng Fong, the social services worker assigned to the Reiser kids' case.
The police also testified in closed-door hearings at the custody proceedings in a bid to make sure the defendant did not gain custody of his children.
"They were allowed to express their concerns," Fong testified.
Jurors sat idly, jotting notes and adjusting themselves in their seats.
To what "consciousness of guilt" was DuBois referring?
During the ongoing three-month trial, testimony included him avoiding police -- or performing "counter-surveillance" maneuvers while on foot and while driving. He bought two books about murder. His car disappeared. Its front seat was missing when it reappeared.
He showed up at his children's school on the first day of class after his wife went missing. It was his estranged wife's day to pick up the kids, now 6 and 8.
He withdrew thousands of dollars in cash in the weeks after his wife's disappearance. His neighbor testified he saw him hosing down his driveway on a hot fall night days after Nina disappeared -- and he was wearing heavy clothes.
Hans Reiser has pleaded not guilty and remains jailed without bail. He claims his 31-year-old wife left Oakland for Russia, where the couple met, and abandoned her children.
After the break, and in keeping with the consciousness of guilt theme.....
A clerk for U-Haul, Grace Delavegra, testified that paperwork the police discovered in the defendant's vehicle shows Hans Reiser was in Manteca, California, inquiring about renting a moving van or some other vehicle. The inquiry was for Sept. 17, 2006, two weeks after Nina Reiser vanished, testified the clerk, who was witness No. 48.
Authorities had discovered a business card with a Manteca address listing a storage-space rental facility. Manteca is about 100 miles northwest of Yosemite National Park and about 50 miles southeast of Oakland.
During his opening statement three months ago, prosecutor Paul Hora suggested the defendant was shopping around for a place where he could store his vehicle, the vehicle whose seat went missing when police seized it Sept. 19, 2006 in Oakland. Hora has speculated the small 1988 Honda CRX was used to transport a body.
Police believe Reiser removed the seat on Sept. 17, 2006 with a newly purchased socket set. The socket set and its receipt for were found in the car, along with the seat's four bolts, according to testimony.
The next witness, California Department of Justice officer Michael Fanucchi, took the stand and testified that he participated in wiretapping the defendant's cell phone and home phone. Some of the messages left for Reiser were played for jurors.
Nina Reiser's mother, Irina Sharanova of Russia, lodged several messages with the defendant in the aftermath of her daughter's disappearance, imploring him to return her calls.
Earlier in the day, fireworks erupted between the judge and defendant.
Cops Find $9,000 and Passport on Hans Reiser
By David Kravets on January 31, 2008 | 3:49:56 PM
OAKLAND, California -- Hans Reiser, the Linux developer accused of murdering his wife, had nearly $9,000 and his passport with him when authorities detained him three weeks after his wife went missing in 2006, a police officer testified here Thursday.
The officer, Jesse Grant, said that the authorities were exercising a search warrant on Sept. 28, 2006 and took a host of clothed and unclothed photos of the defendant in the Oakland police station to chronicle whether he had been in struggle. The wife, Nina Reiser, was last seen Sept. 3, 2006, after she dropped off the divorcing couple's children to his house in the Oakland hills for the Labor Day weekend.
The clothed pictures, which were displayed to jurors on a large monitor, showed an overweight Hans Reiser with a small mark on his chest and back. The defendant is about 40 pound slimmer now. He sat in court with the same dark coat he has donned for months, often peppering his attorney with questions.
"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.
He said he detected a small mark on his chest and back, which was photographed and shown to the jury.
He later added that "There were some small marks, but nothing of significance."
The officer also testified the defendant flatulated in his face when the authorities were snapping nude photos of him Sept. 28, 2006. The officer said Reiser told him: "'You're about to experience chaos' and, for lack of a better term, he farted in my face."
Jurors snickered and the defendant grinned.
"Did you make a report of that?" DuBois asked the officer.
"No. But it stays vividly in my head."
DuBois asked him whether the department had any other "persons of interest."
The officer responded that the authorities checked out Anthony Zografos, the woman's boyfriend at the time she vanished. The officer, however, said Hans Reiser "was probably the main one at a certain point."
"I was assigned to interview Anthony Zografos," Grant added.
Under direct examination, he testified that the battery of the defendant's cell phone was removed.
(Prosecutor Paul Hora has told jurors during his opening remarks in November that the whereabouts of a person with a dead cell phone cannot be traced. Nina Reiser's cell phone, which authorities found in her van a few miles away from the defendant's house, also had its battery removed.)
The defendant, operator of Namesys, has pleaded not guilty and faces a life sentence if convicted. He remains jailed without bail. He claims his wife moved back to Russia, where the divorcing couple met, and abandoned her two young children, now 6 and 8.
The jury is being excused for the day and testimony will resume Monday.
After the break, the lawyers haggled with each other in open court over exhibits and other procedures. The jury had left. At one point, the defendant was by himself at the defense table. Testimony resumes Monday.
Hans Reiser Murder Trial Delayed 2 Days
By David Kravets on February 04, 2008 | 1:33:27 PM
OAKLAND, California -- The Hans Reiser murder trial was delayed for two days Monday. Prosecutor Paul Hora is unable to attend the proceedings here in Alameda County Superior Court until Wednesday. His wife had a baby boy Saturday.
The trial of the Linux programmer, who is accused of killing his estranged wife Nina Reiser, began Nov. 6. There have been about 50 witnesses. Hora was expected to rest his case this week, and now that appears unlikely.
The defendant, 44, the operator of Namesys, might take the stand when his attorneys put a defense.
Nina Reiser was last seen Sept 3, 2006, after she dropped off the divorcing couple's two young children to her husband's house in the Oakland hills. The authorities said she never left the house alive, and that the husband allegedly killed her to end a bitter divorce and custody battle.
The husband claims his wife, who disappeared at age 31, left Oakland for Russia, where the couple met, and abandoned her two young children, now 6 and 8. He remains jailed without bail.
Hans Reiser Murder Trial Refocusing on Nina Reiser -- UPDATE
By David Kravets on February 06, 2008 | 2:27:17 PM
OAKLAND, California -- After weeks of forensic evidence and other testimony, the human side of the Hans Reiser murder trial re-emerged here Wednesday when the 3-month-old case refocused on the Linux programmer's wife, who vanished Sept. 3, 2006.
A manager for the San Francisco Public Health Department testified that she offered Nina Reiser a job working with Russian immigrants two days before she went missing. She was supposed to begin her stint Sept. 21, 2006, but she never started.
"Did she ever show up on the 21st to start her new job?" prosecutor Paul Hora asked Patricia Ann Erwin, the Public Health Department manager.
Erwin also said Nina Reiser never showed to fill out paperwork or get her fingerprints taken.
The testimony came as Hora was finishing up his case in chief, after having some 50 witnesses. Hora is zeroing in on refocusing jurors to get them to reject the defense theory that Nina Reiser left Oakland for Russia, where the couple met, and abandoned her two young children. The defense should get the case as early as next week.
For weeks, the trial has recently centered on forensic evidence, which included blood found on a pillar in the Oakland hills house where the woman was last seen, and on a sleeping bag cover in the husband's car. The passenger seat went missing in the tiny, early model Honda CRX.
Hora maintains the defendant, the 44-year-old operator of Oakland-based Namesys, killed his wife when she dropped off the divorcing couple's two young children at his Oakland hills residence for the Labor Day weekend.
The trial, however, picked up here Wednesday where it began, with witnesses humanizing Nina Reiser, who went missing when she was 31.
"What was your impression of her?" Hora asked Erwin, who had interviewed Nina Reiser twice for the $50,000-a-year job.
"She was very outgoing, friendly, uhm, she was easy to connect with. She seemed down to earth. She seemed very committed to working with us, a strong commitment to supporting the community," Erwin said.
Echoing a dozen witnesses who testified late last year, Erwin testified that Nina Reiser appeared dedicated to her two children, now 6 and 8. The kids now live with Nina Reiser's mother in Russia.
"She talked about her kids starting school. The school year would be starting," she testified. "My impression was they were a major part of her life."
The defendant is jailed without bail and has pleaded not guilty. Jurors appeared interested in the testimony, but the testimony centered on a theme replayed over and again.
Hans Reiser sat quietly, jotting notes on a yellow legal pad, donning the same dark sports coat he has worn since trial started Nov. 6.
On cross examination, defense attorney William DuBois again tried to seed doubt with jurors, presenting his theory that the woman left the country and is alive.
DuBois asked Erwin whether Nina Reiser's boyfriend, Anthony Zografos, called her to say his girlfriend had vanished.
"He conveyed to you the idea that people close to her were hoping for her return?" DuBois asked.
Erwin said she briefly held open the position, but Nina Reiser never showed up for work.
At one point, a standing DuBois placed his arm on the defendant while pondering whether he would ask Erwin more questions. The defendant smiled at his attorney and DuBois said he had nothing more to ask.
The next witness was Richard Wilson, an account manager for TransUnion, one of the country's Big Three credit bureaus. He testified that the defendant was about $90,000 in debt, largely from $29,000 in unpaid child support and credit cards.
After lunch, he is expected to testify that Nina Reiser is about $30,000 in debt, and has not gotten deeper in the hole since she vanished. However, Wilson did testify his agency does not monitor foreign credit.
Testimony is breaking for lunch.
At the end of his testimony, Wilson testified the wife was indeed about $30,000 in debt. He added that there had been no account activity on the wife's account since she vanished, and none on the husband's following his Oct. 10, 2006 arrest.
"Is that basically what you've been saying for the last couple of hours?" defense attorney William DuBois asked on cross examination.
The next witness was Mike Caniglia, an engineer with AT&T Mobility. He testified that Han's Reiser's cell phone was largely inactive between Sept. 1 to Sept. 5, 2006. However, the phone records showed that the husband placed an 8-second call to his wife's cell phone around 5 p.m. on Sept. 5.
The wife of the developer of open source file systems went missing Sept. 3
When her minivan was found a few miles away from her estranged husband's house, the battery of her cell phone the authorities discovered inside was removed. Caniglia said mobile phone users can easily be tracked if their phones are on. If they are turned off, or the battery is removed, they cannot be traced to local cell towers. He said there were 60 such towers in Oakland.
The trial resumes here Thursday, when testimony will center on the search for Nina Reiser in the Oakland hills.
Nina Reiser's Last Phone Call Was to Hans Reiser on Day She Vanished -- Update
By David Kravets on February 07, 2008 | 4:20:32 PM
OAKLAND, California -- The last phone call from Nina Reiser's cell phone was placed to her estranged husband, Hans Reiser -- the popular Linux programmer who is accused of killing her, according to testimony here Thursday.
That testimony provided no real value to jurors, other than demonstrating to the panel that the authorities did their homework and reviewed cell phone records of both the suspect and the missing woman.
The call originated from a cell phone tower in Berkeley, near a grocery store whose surveillance cameras captured the woman and her two small children inside. The surveillance tapes have been played several times for jurors, and the $144 receipt has been shown to them many times as well.
Nina Reiser dropped off the divorcing couple's kids to the husband's house in the Oakland hills shortly after that last 2 p.m. call on Sept. 3, 2006, and has never been seen since. Prosecutor Paul Hora is to rest his case-in-chief soon. The defendant might testify when he puts on a defense perhaps as early as next week.
What's more, Michael Caniglia, an AT&T mobility employee, on the stand for the second day, testified that the defendant placed a few-seconds call to the wife's phone around 5 p.m. on Sept. 5, 2006 -- two days after her disappearance.
Defense attorney William DuBois told THREAT LEVEL outside of court that there was an innocent explanation for the call. "He thought she was still alive and was trying to reach her."
Prosecutor Paul Hora thinks otherwise.
Reiser, 44, is accused of killing his wife in a bid to end a bitter custody battle and divorce. The 31-year-old woman vanished after last being seen at her estranged husband's Oakland hills house. Her minivan was found a couple of miles away.
In her vehicle was her cell phone, its battery was removed. Records the jury saw Thursday and the day before show the husband called that cell phone around 5 p.m. for a few seconds on Sept. 5, 2005.
Hora, in his opening statement three months ago, told jurors the defendant dumped the woman's car in a nearby neighborhood, and removed the battery from his wife's cell phone.
Why did the husband call it? He called the phone to check to make sure it was off -- at least that's the prosecution's theory. If the phone was on, that means the authorities might have discovered the van, or so goes the thinking. (Jurors took some notes. But the 3-month-long trial hasn't produced anything substantial for the last few days.)
The vehicle with the phone inside was found by the authorities four day after the call, on Sept. 9, 2006.
The 44-year-old defendant, who is jailed without bail, has pleaded not guilty. His defense is that the woman left Oakland for Russia, where the couple met, and abandoned the couple's two young children, now 6 and 8.
That said, jurors got a brief introduction into mobile phone tower pinging technology.
Caniglia and another mobile phone employee testified about how every 15 minutes or so a cell phone pings to the nearest cell phone tower, meaning a cell phone's user can be traced if the phone is on.
"And you can be located when they are making a call, is that correct?" DuBois asked Caniglia.
"But when the phone is turned off, you can't locate them, is that right?"
"Whether or not the battery is in the phone, when the phone is turned off, it can't be located by your system? Is that right?" DuBois asked.
Caniglia said there are "thousands" of cell phone towers in the Bay Area alone.
Moments later, DuBois asked: "How fast does that electrical impulse travel?"
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman interjected: "Relevance."
DuBois moved on, noting that a cell phone tower or cell site can track a user to within a few miles.
"So is there any way to say that a phone was on a certain street when it was used?"
"No," Caniglia responded.
Caniglia also said there was no way to pinpoint the exact location of a cell phone user who receives a cell phone call.
"No idea," he said.
Jody Citizen, of Verizon Wireless records custodian, admitted what the mobile phone companies don't like to concede.
Prosecutor Hora was showing jurors on a large prompt Nina Reiser's mobile phone records. For some reason, a phone call did not register a cell phone tower.
"There's times you use a cell phone, you get nothing but dead air," Citizen said.
Can you tell me the very last cell phone call that was placed by this cell phone?" Hora asked Citizen of Nina Reiser's cell phone.
"Based on these records, the last call placed on this cell phone was Sept. 3, at 2:04 p.m.," Citizen replied.
"After this, this phone never picks up another cell site?" Hora asked.
After the break...
Frank Moscetti, an Alameda County District Attorney inspector, took the stand and testified that the authorities searched the Oakland hills three times, using dogs and hundreds of volunteers. The desolate hills -- east of San Francisco -- stretch for miles and include trees, brush, reservoirs and steep ravines.
The searches proved fruitless. Neither Nina Reiser nor any clues to her whereabouts were found, he said.
"There's some very rugged terrain out there," Moscetti said.
"It goes for miles?" Hora asked.
However, at one point, Moscetti testified that three different dogs alerted to the same spot during one search. The area tagged by the dogs, Moscetti said, "just looked like the ground."
"The bottom line: we dug up the area," Moscetti added.
The authorities dug about 18 inches deep and stopped, finding "solidly packed earth that had been there for years," Moscetti testified.
Moscetti estimated that "we came out of there with a 10-to-20 percent potential detection."
Hora asked whether that meant searchers combed only a small percentage of the hills.
"Most of it has not been searched?" Hora asked.
"Most of it has not been searched," the inspector replied.
On cross examination, defense attorney DuBois asked: "If she wasn't killed at all and just left the area, you wouldn't find her?"
A few questions later, a heated DuBois asked: "It wasn't that you didn't find any body, you didn't find any clues?"
On redirect, Hora asked the inspector whether Hans Reiser participated in any of the three searches.
The jury was excused and, after a short break, the lawyers and judge haggled outside the panel's presence.
Judge Goodman agreed with the defense to blacken out a few sentences of an e-mail Nina Reiser sent her husband on June 19, 2005 regarding the husband and wife seeing a mediator to help them through their acrimonious divorce. He said failure to remove them would be "prejudicial" to the defendant.
The e-mail is part of hundreds of exhibits to be given to the jury.
Among the lines removed, they are: "I would not continue mediation when you keep threatening me;" "However, threats are not part of any mediation process; and "I warn you that if you are going to communicate with me in this manner, I am going to have to report you to police."