Jury awards Reiser's children $60M in damages

July 17, 2012 5:51:37 PM PDT
An Oakland man convicted of killing his wife has been ordered to pay his children $60 million. An Alameda County jury found Hans Reiser liable Tuesday in the wrongful death of his late wife Nina. The former software engineer was convicted of murder in 2008, but Tuesday's judgment awards his children more than twice the amount they were suing for.

The judge allowed six hours of testimony from both sides and just before noon, a jury made up of mostly women awarded the two children $25 million each for pain and suffering, and an additional $10 million in punitive damages. "We wanted to make darned sure that the children were well taken care of," the jury foreman said. By awarding the children of the convicted killer $60 million in a wrongful death verdict, an Alameda County jury attempted to do just that. "We think we came up with a decision that was unanimous with everybody and we're very happy with that," the foreman said.

"The impact is just so extreme in this case," Alternate juror Lisa Golden said. Reiser is serving a term of 15 years to life for killing his wife Nina in September 2006. Their children, 12-year-old Rory and 11-year-old Niorline, filed suit for $25 million in the loss of their mother. Jurors decided the two children, now living in Russia with their maternal grandmother, deserved more. "We discussed together what is a fair amount for the kids living 50, 60 years," juror Eddy Aguirre said.

The verdict came after three hours of deliberations over two days. Reiser acted as his own attorney and claimed that Nina had "Munchausen syndrome by proxy," a disorder where parents fake illnesses in their children for attention, and that she had their children diagnosed with other ailments. Reiser says he was "forced to kill her," a claim the jury and the family attorney rejected. "The first time he said, 'When I decided to kill my wife and hide the body," he was just that open about it. I don't think I've ever met anybody who was just matter-of-fact like that before," Golden said.

"I can't tell you how happy we are right now. When you fight a case like this for four years and you have jurors come back and do the right thing like this, it's just a wonderful thing about our system of justice," family attorney Arturo Gonzalez said. Gonzalez says the verdict is vindication for the memory of Reiser's slain wife and their children.

Now, the hunt for any money Reiser may have begins. Coincidentally, money was also an issue in court. The court no longer provides a court reporter for civil cases, so there is no record of any of the proceedings.

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