Nina Reiser appears at husband's murder trial
By Jeff Shuttleworth
January 14, 2008
Nina Reiser made a brief appearance today in the trial of her
husband Hans Reiser on charges that he murdered her, but only
in a videotape recorded at a grocery store shortly before she
was last seen alive.
Oakland police officer Shan Johnson testified today that the
video showed Nina Reiser, who was 31 at the time, with the couple's
two children, Rory and Nio, at the Berkeley Bowl store at 2020
Oregon St. in Berkeley about 2 p.m. on Sept. 3, 2006.
The video, which recorded activity near a checkout counter, didn't
show Nina's face, but it showed part of her body and showed that
she was wearing a purple sundress.
Nina was last seen about half an hour later when she dropped
off the children at the house at 6979 Exeter Drive in Oakland
where Hans Reiser lived with his mother, Beverly Palmer.
Her body has never been found, despite extensive searches in
the Oakland hills and elsewhere.
But Hans Reiser, an Oakland computer engineer, was charged in
October of 2006 with murdering her after Oakland police said they
found biological and trace evidence tying him to her death.
Nina and Hans Reiser married in 1999 but she filed for divorce
and separated from him in 2004. The couple was in the midst of
acrimonious divorce proceedings and a struggle over custody of
their two children when she disappeared.
Hans Reiser has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
His attorney, William DuBois, has said that he thinks Nina may
still be alive and in hiding in Russia, where she was born and
where she was trained as a physician.
Today was the first day of testimony this year in Reiser's trial,
as Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman gave jurors
a 26-day break during the holidays, and much of the testimony
was dry as prosecutor Paul Hora continued his task of methodically
presenting small bits of pieces of evidence aimed at painting
a larger picture that proves Reiser is guilty.
One little piece was Johnson's testimony that when he searched
Nina's home on Sept. 15, 2006, he found her passport, as well
as passports for the couple's children.
Johnson said the fact that he found Nina's passport indicated
to him that she hadn't left the country, but DuBois suggested
that she could have left the country using an assumed name.
Officer Bruce Christensen described nearly 100 photos he took
of virtually every nook and cranny of the Exeter drive house.
Christensen also described photos he took of a house at 6952
Simpson St. on Oct. 10, 2006, where a male friend of Reiser's
Reiser was arrested at that residence that day.
Christensen showed jurors a photograph of a computer screen on
which a Yahoo search had been conducted before police arrived.
The top five searches all had to do with the highly-publicized
search for Nina Reiser.
The headline on the first search result said, "Police, FBI
search Hans Reiser's house again."
Johnson testified that Reiser engaged in counter-surveillance
activities, such as dramatically changing speeds while driving
and following circuitous routes, when he and other officers followed
him on Sept. 8, 2006, five days after Nina disappeared.
DuBois suggested that Reiser's strange driving patterns indicate
he knew he was being followed by police, but Johnson disagreed,
saying that once suspects know for sure that they're being followed
it's fruitless for them to try to flee from police.
At one point DuBois asked Johnson how suspects could get police
officers to stop following them.
"A lot of people would like to know the answer to that,"
Johnson said, drawing laughter from the jurors in Reiser's case.
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