Reiser trial adjourns until next week

January 23, 2008 2:31:46 PM PST
Oakland computer programmer Hans Reiser's trial on charges that he murdered his estranged wife Nina is in recess until next week because the judge's clerk has an appointment this afternoon and a juror will be attending a seminar Thursday.

The early adjournment at 12:15 p.m. today means that there was only a day and a half of testimony this week in the slow-moving trial, which began Nov. 6, as Monday was a court holiday.

Prosecutor Paul Hora told jurors and Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman that it probably will take him another two weeks to finish presenting his case.

Hans Reiser, 44, is accused of murdering Nina even though her body has never been found, despite extensive searches in the Oakland hills and elsewhere.

Nina, who was 31, disappeared on Sept. 3, 2006, after she dropped off the couple's two children at the house at 6979 Exeter Drive in the Oakland hills where Hans Reiser lived with his mother.

The couple married in 1999 but Nina filed for divorce and separated from Hans in 2004. They were in the midst of an acrimonious divorce and a battle over the custody of their children when she disappeared. Hans Reiser has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

His lead attorney, William DuBois, has said he thinks Nina might still be alive and be in hiding in Russia, where she was born and raised and where she was trained as a physician.

Before the trial adjourned today, an Oakland police DNA expert admitted she made a mistake in collecting a blood sample from a pillar inside the entrance to Hans Reiser's home.

Under cross-examination by Richard Tamor, another attorney who represents Reiser, criminalist Shannon Cavness said she only collected one blood sample from the pillar but she should have collected at least two samples and could have collected as many as five samples.

Cavness said that if she were to examine evidence at Reiser's home again, "I would have swabbed at least two distinct areas."

She said, "I was assuming they (the blood stains) were from the same source, which was a mistake," because the stains were from at least two different sources.

Under questioning from Hora on Tuesday, Cavness said blood that very likely came from Nina Reiser was found on the pillar inside Hans Reiser's home as well as on a sleeping bag sack that was found in his car when it was recovered several weeks after Nina disappeared.

Cavness, who was deemed to be an expert witness by Goodman, said there is a less than 1 in 45 trillion chance that the female blood samples on those two locations were from someone other than Nina Reiser.

Cavness also said there is a less than 1 in 208 chance that a male blood sample on the pillar came from someone other than Hans Reiser.

She said the reason for the large difference in odds is that the female sample was much bigger than the male sample, which was nearby.

In addition, Cavness said there's a less than 1 in 1 billion chance that a male blood sample found on the sleeping bag sack was from someone other than Reiser.

Hora said that when Reiser's trial resumes next week, he will ask Cavness some follow-up questions and then put Oakland police Officers Gerardo Melero and Jesse Grant on the witness stand.

The prosecutor said he also will call Irina Sharanova, Nina's mother, to the witness stand before he rests his case.

Sharanova lives in St. Petersburg, Russia, where she is raising the Reiser's children.