Hans Reiser guilty of first-degree murder

April 28, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
An Oakland jury has found computer engineer Hans Reiser guilty of the first-degree murder of his estranged wife, Nina Reiser.

The jury of five women and seven men reached their verdict after two and a half days of deliberation in a trial that took six months.

After hearing the guilty verdict, Reiser stood up and said, "I've been the best father."

Reiser was found guilty of the murder of his wife, 31-year-old Nina Reiser. She was last seen on September 3, 2006 when she dropped the couple's two children off at Hans Reiser's Oakland home.

Prosecutor Paul Hora faced the challenge of prosecuting a case without a body. The district attorney's office credits Oakland police with gathering enough evidence for them to prosecute Reiser even though no body has ever been found.

Defense attorney William Dubois said that Reiser was a challenging client, but putting him on the stand was his only choice. Dubois also said that he didn't like the fact that the jury reached a verdict so quickly.

"I had a bad feeling about this. I didn't feel the jury had engaged to the point where they're really looking hard at the evidence, although it turns out that a lot of them had notes, and so they really did consider the evidence more than we thought they had because they had notes to draw upon," said Dubois.

Hora says Nina's family in Russia has not been notified yet because of the time difference.

"This was a case that started in November and didn't end until last week with the presentation of evidence, and we didn't put that evidence in for nothing. That's what it took to prove this case. It took that much time to present the evidence," said Hora.

Both attorneys did speak with the jury after the verdict. Hora said there was not one single piece of evidence that the jury said was a deciding factor.

Dubois says he will appeal this case.

The sentencing date will not be determined until Tuesday. Hans Reiser could face 25 years to life in prison.

Analysis of the verdict

Our legal analyst, Dean Johnson, weighs in on the jury's verdict.

Question: The prosecutors convinced the jury that Reiser was guilty, in spite of the fact that there was no body. Is that unusual?

Answer: It's unusual, but it's not unheard of. One of the leading no-body cases was prosecuted in San Mateo County (the Anderson case). They're always circumstantial cases, but if a prosecutor can put together the picture that's consistent with only one conclusion, that the defendant is a murderer, those cases can be prosecuted just like any other homicide.

Question: How did Hans Reiser taking the stand affect his case?

Answer: Reiser has nobody else to blame but himself. Prosecutors have an old saying, "the case always gets better when the defendant takes the stand," and that was certainly true in this case. He was an awful witness with the jury, even laughing at him at some points.

Question: The jury took two and a half days to deliberate in a nearly six-month trial and didn't ask any questions. Was that surprising?

Answer: No. It could have been a little bit longer deliberation, but the great thing about circumstantial evidence cases, is that prosecutor puts a picture together for the jury to see and the decision then becomes very easy, and sometimes very quick.

A statement from Nina Reiser's friend, Ellen Doren

"I would like to say that we thank the jury for the hard work they have done. And we would like to thank the Oakland Police and the DA office for taking an interest in this case. Paul Hora has worked very hard to bring this case to the end.

The trial is over but it will never be over for us, Nina's friends and family and most importantly her children. We are very thankful."


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