Closing arguments delayed
in Reiser trial after clash with judge

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Published on April 15, 2008 with No Comments

By Jeff Shuttleworth

April 15, 2008

The beleaguered judge in the marathon trial of computer engineer Hans Reiser on charges that he murdered his estranged wife Nina will make a second attempt to have the attorneys in the case give their closing arguments today after his first attempt ended in failure yesterday.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman told jurors on April 7 that prosecutor Paul Hora and defense attorney William DuBois would give their closing arguments yesterday after about an hour of testimony by what was expected to be the final witness in the trial, which began Nov. 6.

But the testimony by Alameda County Sheriff’s technician Kyle Ritter about his examination of the hard drives that Hans Reiser removed from one of his computers just a few days after Nina disappeared on Sept. 3, 2006, took two hours, not one. And then Reiser, 44, returned to the witness stand for an 11th day of testimony.

The body of Nina Reiser, who was 31 at the time, has never been found, but prosecutors charged Reiser with murder because they believe DNA and blood evidence, as well as substantial circumstantial evidence, proves he killed her.

Reiser came back to the stand against the advice of DuBois, who told Goodman outside the presence of jurors that Reiser wanted to make “more suicidal remarks to the jury but I’m trying to prevent it.”

Reiser testified fairly calmly for about 20 minutes about various issues in his case, alleging at one point that the whole case against him “is silly,” but pandemonium then ensued.

DuBois asked Reiser if he had “a few more things” he wanted to talk about before he got off the witness stand, but Reiser furrowed his eyebrows and said “there’s lot of things” he wanted to testify about and asked his attorney, “Why are we doing this?”

Without a question pending, Reiser said, “I’d like to have my children called to the stand,” referring to his son Rory and his daughter Nio.

While DuBois conferred with co-counsel Richard Tamor before deciding whether to ask Reiser any more questions, Reiser said he wanted one of his many former divorce lawyers, John Fuery, to ask him some questions.

Reiser said, “I wish to change my attorney.”

Reiser next asked to be allowed to explain a comment he made several weeks ago that he didn’t have any problems with Anthony Zografos, the man whom Nina Reiser was dating at the time she disappeared, because he wasn’t into cannibalism. But Goodman said any testimony about cannibalism would be irrelevant.

DuBois asked for yet another delay so he could confer with Reiser in private in a courthouse stairwell.

After keeping jurors waiting for about 10 minutes, Reiser returned to the witness stand and testified for a few minutes about various additional subjects, including his belief that Rory had been Nina’s favorite child at one point but later Nio became her favorite.

Goodman ordered Reiser to leave the witness stand and return to his seat at the defense table after DuBois said he didn’t have any more questions and Hora said he did not want to cross-examine Reiser again.

Goodman excused jurors for the day shortly before 3 p.m. and told them closing arguments would begin at 10 a.m. today.

Reiser complained audibly as jurors left the courtroom.

At DuBois’ request, once the jurors had left, Goodman allowed Reiser to state for the record his long list of complaints about additional evidence he thought should have been presented in his defense.

After Reiser talked for about 10 more minutes, Hora interrupted him and noted that Reiser “has about 75 pages of notes” that he apparently wanted to talk about.

The prosecutor said he needed time to prepare his closing argument and accused Reiser of trying to “delay his trial.”

Following a heated exchange involving Hora, Reiser and DuBois, Goodman finally decided that he’d listened to Reiser long enough and told Reiser that he could continue with his list of complaints after jury deliberations conclude.

Reiser continued to insist that, “I want Mr. Fuery to represent me,” but Goodman told him, “You will not delay closing arguments” and he wants them to begin Tuesday morning.”

Goodman said, “I’ve about had it. You are rude and there are not enough words in the English language to describe you.”

Goodman told Reiser, “You’ve made a mockery” of his trial and warned him, “You are not in charge of the proceedings.”

The judge said, “I’m tired of listening to you talk. If you continue to disrupt the court, I will have you removed.”

Nina and Hans Reiser met in Russia, where she was born and was trained as a physician, and where he often spent time doing business for his computer file system company.

They married in 1999, but she filed for divorce and separated from him in 2004. Nina was awarded legal custody of their children, but Hans had visitation rights. Their divorce case, which Hans Reiser has admitted was acrimonious, was still pending when she disappeared.

Nina was last seen alive when she dropped off the couple’s children at the house in the Oakland hills where Hans lived with his mother.

Hans Reiser has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. DuBois has said that he thinks Nina may still be alive and be in hiding somewhere, possibly in Russia.

Although Goodman, who initially promised jurors that the trial would be over by mid-January, wants closing arguments to begin at 10 a.m. today, nothing is guaranteed because DuBois hasn’t yet formally rested the defense’s case.

DuBois said that he won’t rest until there’s a stipulation about a minor issue in the case. That stipulation will be read to jurors today.

Goodman has said that closing arguments could last for as long as five days.

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