Reiser trial borders on the bizarre
By Jeff Shuttleworth
February 22, 2008
The trial of computer engineer Hans Reiser on charges that he
murdered his estranged wife Nina bordered on the bizarre for the
second straight day yesterday with a key defense witness sleeping
in a courthouse hallway and the playing of a video of the couple's
unusual wedding ceremony.
A day after Reiser's father, Ramon Reiser, testified about the
Russian Mafia and sadomasochism and did one-handed pushups in
court, defense lawyer William DuBois treated jurors to a lengthy
video of the wedding of Hans and Nina at a stone labyrinth in
an isolated area of Tilden Park in May of 1999.
Meanwhile, psychiatrist Beverly Parr, who testified both Wednesday
and Thursday that she thinks Hans Reiser suffers from a mild form
of Autism called Asperger's disorder, spent the afternoon sleeping
in the hallway outside the courtroom of Alameda County Superior
Court Judge Larry Goodman, who is presiding over Reiser's trial.
Ramon Reiser, who wasn't allowed in court because he's a witness
in the case, sat nearby.
In the morning session, Parr said on the witness stand that she
was so upset about "the negativity that is manifest in newspaper
articles about Asperger's disorder" based on her testimony
on Wednesday that she only got two hours of sleep Wednesday night
when she stayed at the home of Reiser's mother, Beverly Palmer,
who's a close friend of hers.
The video featured a male entertainer who carried an animal skull
on a long stick on whose function was to be like a Minotaur, according
to Palmer, who was called to the witness stand by DuBois to authenticate
and narrate the video.
Palmer explained to jurors that a Minotaur is a mythical creature
who is half-bull and half human.
Hans and Nina wore silk robes, smiled happily and did snake-like
dance moves to the rhythm of a tambourine. At the reception back
at Palmer's house in the Oakland hills, a belly dancer with a
bare midriff danced provocatively and Hans and Nina danced some
more, although Hans fell on his face at one point.
The video also showed a man dressed in a woman's dress and a
woman's hat and wearing lipstick as well as a woman dressed in
Palmer said the man was Hans' good friend, Sean Sturgeon, who
was "the best woman" at the wedding ceremony and the
woman was Sturgeon's girlfriend, who was "the best man."
Other witnesses in Reiser's lengthy case have testified that
Sturgeon later had a long affair with Nina and DuBois has said
that Sturgeon was into sadomasochism.
Nina, who was 31 at the time, disappeared on Sept. 3, 2006, when
she dropped off the couple's two children off at the home at 6979
Exeter Drive in the Oakland hills where he lived with his mother.
The couple had been separated for two years and was in the midst
of bitter divorce and custody proceedings.
The body of Nina Reiser, who was born in Russia and was trained
as a physician there before coming to the U.S. in 1999 to marry
Hans Reiser, has never been found, despite extensive searches
in the Oakland hills and elsewhere. But Hans Reiser, 44, was charged
with murdering her because prosecutors believe that DNA and blood
evidence proves that he killed her.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. DuBois
has said that he thinks Nina Reiser may still be alive and be
in hiding in Russia.
DuBois also has suggested that Nina may have been killed by Russian
spies, alleging that her family has connections with Russian spy
Ramon Reiser, a former Army sergeant first class and mathematician,
testified Wednesday that he warned his son that he might be surveilled
by people associated with the former KGB, "Russian mafia
groups in California" or "the techno-geek S&M crowd."
When she was on the witness stand yesterday, Parr admitted that
although she has known Hans Reiser since he was two or three years
old it's hard for her to say for certain that he suffers from
Asperger's disorder because she's never diagnosed him.
Prosecutor Paul Hora suggested that Reiser suffers from narcissistic
personality disorder characterized by arrogance, instead of from
Asperger's disorder, but Parr said she disagreed.
Palmer testified that she wrote a memo on Jan. 11, 2005, that
in the summer of 2004, apparently around the time that Hans and
Nina separated, Nina, who was in Russia with the couple's children
at the time, threatened to take the children to live in Sweden
instead of returning to the United States.
Nina also said she wanted a large sum of money, possibly up to
$30,000, to be placed in her bank account to ensure that she would
return to the U.S., Palmer said.
Under cross-examination by Hora, Palmer admitted that she wrote
the memo at Hans' direction as part of the divorce case.
Palmer also admitted that when Oakland police officers talked
to her shortly after Nina disappeared and asked where she might
have gone, she described Nina as "a lovely person" and
made no mention of her alleged threat to go to Sweden.
Reiser's trial will resume Monday afternoon. DuBois hasn't yet
disclosed if Reiser will testify.
Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication,
Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent
of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.