Hans Reiser sentenced to 15 years to life

August 29, 2008 6:33:07 PM PDT
Computer engineer Hans Reiser was sentenced today to 15 years to life in prison for killing his wife Nina, who was last seen alive nearly two years ago when she dropped off the couple's two children at his home in the Oakland hills.

A trial that dragged on for two years was further delayed today when former computer programmer Hans Reiser poured through every word of his 30-page murder confession for about two hours.

After stipulating to the confession and the terms of a reduced sentence he asked forgiveness.

"I don't think I'll ever be able to make up to society for what I've done. But I'll try to the extent I can," stated Reiser in a low voice when he finally apologized for killing his wife Nina in 2006.

"I'm very sorry that I deprived Anthony of a life together with Nina, deprived the two of them, said Reiser when apologizing to his children.

Reiser pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and the judge threw out the jury's first-degree murder charge from April 28, which was a 20 years to life sentence.

Reiser's case has received intense media coverage, including on the network news programs "48 Hours" and "ABC 20/20," and sound and light crews wired the courtroom of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman for today's hearing.

Nina Reiser, who was born in Russia, trained as a physician there and met Hans when he was doing business there.

She married Hans in 1999, but she separated from him in 2004 and was awarded legal custody of their two children. Nina was 31 at the time she disappeared.

Although Nina's body wasn't found despite a massive and heavily publicized search, Hans Reiser was prosecuted for her death based on circumstantial and blood evidence.

Hans Reiser, 44, spent 11 days on the witness stand denying that he had anything to do with Nina's disappearance, but at the end of his six-month trial on April 28 jurors convicted him of first-degree murder.

On July 7, Reiser led authorities to a remote spot near his house at Redwood Regional Park in the East Bay hills where he buried Nina's body. Her remains were positively identified the next day.

Prosecutor Paul Hora described how Reiser killed his wife: "Near the end of the discussion he got angry, struck her in the head with his fist, then strangled her to death and put her into a big duffel bag."

A long-time friend Ellen Doren put together a photo album of Nina and her children in remembrance. "I think the sentence brought closure finally to our lives," said Doren.

ABC7's Legal Consultant Dean Johnson believes Reiser will never get parole precisely because of the deal he made. "It is truly unique that after a jury trial and after taking the stand and lying, lying, lying for day after day about his culpability, Reiser could then turn Nina's body into a bargaining chip and get what is in fact a plea bargain," said Johnson.

Reiser agreed not to dispute any part of his reduced sentence. If he does, the judge will re-impose the first-degree murder sentence.

Reiser's children are living with their grandmother in Russia and Nina Reiser will be laid to rest in Russia on the anniversary of her murder on September 3rd.


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