[conspire] Reiser care: additional prosecution witnesses

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue Dec 4 22:09:22 PST 2007

We 2007-11-28:  Readers of these reports may recall that defendent
Hans Reiser, frustrated by his rather appalling treatment by Alameda
County Family Court, donated $2000 in 2006 to Supervisor Gail Steele's
re-election campaign, and frequently called her office.  Steele, who
serves a south county district far from Hans's Oakland residence, was
prosecutor Hora's next witness.

Steele testified that she shared Hans's concerns about Family Court, and 
opined that Hans seemed "stressed" by his experience, but specifically
denied Hora's suggestion that he was obsessed with it.  ("I wouldn't go
that far.")  She could not remember details of telephone discussions
with Hans, but remembered that he said he didn't like what Nina was
doing with his children, and felt that Family Court's child-custody
evaluators are biased.  E-mails received by Steele purportedly[1] by
Hans included a five-page one to "articulate the issues that happened in
family court and what we could do to change it", including a
"methodology study proposal" towards that end, and a second one
proposing that a new county department, separate from Family Court, 
oversee child-custody evaluations.  (She was sympathetic, but lacks the
authority to rearrange county courts.)

Hora established that records show messages left citing Hans's number
to someone in Steele's office on Mo 2006-08-28, We 2006-08-30, and 
Fr 2006-09-01.  On that Friday, there was a 16-minute call and a
6-minute one between the two numbers.  (Nina was last seen on Su
2006-09-03, the following weekend.)  Steele testified that Hans never
called her office again(!), despite his prior hot interest in the issue.

In defence attorney William DuBois's cross-examination, Steele admitted
that she cannot recall reliably details of calls to her office, and that
neither she nor her staff recall the two calls on Fr 2006-09-01.  DuBois
also showed excerpts from Steele's 2006 contributor list, proving that
it's perfectly normal for out-of-district constitutents to send her

Hora's next witness was Ron Zeno, executive director of social-service
company Safe Exchange in Oakland, which in 2005 furnished Hans and Nina
a rendezvous point for handing off the children.  Hora asked if Nina
seemed the sort of mother who would "voluntarily just disappear"?  "No,
sir."  And:  "Nina was great with the kids.  She was a great person.
Every time she walked in to pick up her kids, she would get on one knee
and put her hands out and both kids, the children would run to her."
Hans told Hora that Hans had once told him he'd be surprised if he knew
"what Nina was into", apparently referring to the S&M activities with
lover and former Hans Reiser best friend Sean Sturgeon.

Next prosecution witness, Joyce Harnett, a Department of Child Support
Services case worker, who testified that Hans called some days before
Nina disappeared, angry over a letter saying he was $12,161 behind in
child support, and that the county could confiscate his property.
"Mr. Reiser insisted he was in compliance.  There was nothing we could
do about it, because it was court-ordered."  She claimed owed $30,645 as
of a few days ago.  

On cross-examination, she admitted that her department does make
mistakes, and the amounts may be in error.

Th 2007-11-29:  Next prosecution witness was Sandra Starr Rudd, cashier
at the now-closed downtown Berkeley Barnes & Noble bookstore where Hans
Reiser bought two books on police murder investigations, on Fr
2006-09-08, for $28.25 cash.  Rudd said she could not remember the
transaction or Hans.  Records show that Hans did not use his B&N
member-discount card.  Jurors were shown store surveillance video of the

Next was Oakland PD officer Benjamin Denson, who frequently watched
over divorcing parents handing off their children at police HQ.  He
remembered intense animosity between Nina and Hans.  "They rarely
talked.  It was my impression -- this is what I observed -- the
defendant displayed hostility toward Nina.  I would call it barely
restrained aggression."  He sometimes went "outside to make sure nothing
happened between Nina and the defendant."  And:  "I told her one day,
'You need to get yourself a gun.'"

Hora:  "Based on your experience, and the year 200 when you witnessed
Nina interact with your children, do you have an opinion if she would be
the type of woman that would voluntarily disappear and abandon her
children?"  Denson: "Absolutely not.  She was very solicitous of these
children.  She cared about them.  She loved them."

On cross-examination, Denson admitted that Hans was hardly the only
divorcing parent to show hostility or tenseness, and that Hans had never
shown any sign of physical aggression.

DuBois:  "Would you be surprised if you found out she committed multiple
         acts of grand theft in her spare time?"
Hora:    "Objection:  Lacks foundation."  
Goodman: "I agree.  It assumes facts not in evidence."  [Counsel cannot
          establish facts on the sly solely by implication.]
DuBois:  "I withdraw the question."

Next witness was Mary Aima, teacher at Grand Lakes Montessori, who
opined that Nina wouldn't abandon her children.  "This kids were her
life."  On cross, Aima admitted she knew nothing of Nina's life outside
the school setting or in Russia.

Next witness was U-Sef Barnes, who ran Alameda County's child-abuse
hotline in 2005, which took a call from Hans a year before Nina
vanished.  Hans called to complain that his estranged wife was 
subject to "Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome".  Regular Munchausen Syndrome
is where people seek medical help for imaginary ailments; the "by Proxy" 
variant is where they seek it for others, in this case, son Rory, then
5.  Hans was complaining that Nina was inventing imaginary ailments and 
treating Rory:  She'd alleged that he was suffering Traumatic Stress
Disorder, dissociation disorder, and borderline bipolar disorder caused
by playing violent video games with his father.  Hans said this was 
complete nonsense.  Each parent had hired psychologists to support their
respective views.  Hans also complained that Nina had failed to give
Rory prescribed medication to prevent infections the two days leading up
to the boy's ear surgery, making her "medically negligent".  Barnes's
department logged the call but took no action.

Next was Helen Campbell, principal at Grand Lakes Montessori, saying
Hans had told her he believed Nina had Munchausen by Proxy, and that her
allegations that Rory suffered "weakness in his fingers" was her
invention, and that the real problem Rory was slow to learn calligraphy
was that he simply found it boring. 

Campbell testified that she heard Hans tell Nina at a conference, through
clenched teeth, that Rory ws "absolutely normal", and was "extremely
hostile" towards the school for helping Nina "manufacturing problems"
for the two children.  Having raised with Hans the fact that Nina was
(in Russia) a physician and "knew about symptoms", she said she
remembers Hans saying that Nina was connected to the KGB and was a good

Mo 2007-11-03:  Prosecution called Hans's divorced mother, Beverly
Palmer, who's a multimedia artist, and was at Burning Man the weekend of
Nina's disappearance. 

Hora:   "Is it fair to say you thought she was more than missing?
        Maybe she just ran away to Russia?"
Palmer: "That's possible."
Hora:   "Is that what crossed your mind?"  [at the time police 
        interviewed her on Fr 2006-09-08]
Palmer: "That day, I thought somebody had kidnapped her."

Hora:   "Do you know where Nina is?"
Palmer: "Do *I* know where Nina is?  No."
Hora:   "What was your impression of Nina on Sept. 7, 2006, on
        whether or not she would be the kind of woman -- mother --
        who would abandon her children?"
Palmer: "Well, she did leave them two times before."  [Nina took
        two trips, leaving the children behind, during the marriage.]

Hora reminded Palmer that she'd told Oakland PD "I can't imagine her
leaving the children."

Palmer:  "Since then, I have some second thoughts."
Hora:    "Since then, your son has also been charged with murder."
Palmer:  "Mmmmhhhhmmm."

Palmer testified that she owned title to both her recent-production
Honday hybrid and the old two-seater Honda CRX that has been referred 
to as Hans's, and had been peeved that Hans had both cars away from the
house when she returned from Burning Man on Tu 2006-09-05.  She says 
Hans initially did not mention that Nina had been reported missing, 
and commented that Hans had put off mentioning that because she was 
tired and would have gotten upset.

Palmer:  "I _was_ upset when I heard about it the next day."
Hora:    "Why were you upset?"
Palmer:  "Well, you wouldn't be upset if the mother of your
         grandchildren is missing?"

Hora showed a police photo of the CRX as found, missing its right seat, 
and with the floorboards wet.  Asked if she'd noticed the seat missing
at any time previously, she said she takes little notice of the car's
state because she "very rarely" uses it, and "wouldn't have any reason
to look inside it."

She said she'd asked Hans to please return the Honda hybrid; he didn't
do so, saying that the CRX wouldn't start.

Hora:    "Did you ever ask him where the CRX was?"
Palmer:  "He just told me it was broken. He didn't tell me where it was."
Hora:    "Did he refuse to tell you where it was?"
Palmer:  "Yes."

Tu 2007-11-04:  Prosecution's direct examination of Beverly Palmer
continues, opening with a taped telephone call between mother and son,
Sa 2006-09-23, 20 days after the disappearance.  Hans bitterly recounted
Nina having invented fake medical problems for Rory as "a way of
degrading me", and accused Nina of continually embezzling money from
Namesys, Inc., even as the business was going bankrupt.  He recalled an
occasion when Nina had kicked Hans and then called police in an effort
to get him arrested.  Hans claimed that the responding officers had
intended to arrest _Nina_, but that he'd talked them out of it, "a
mistake I've paid for heavily."

Palmer:   "All these things that she did, she still didn't deserve 
          whatever it is that's happened to her.  Don't you think?"
Hans:     "I think my children shouldn't be endangered by her.  All
          I ever wanted was to be nice to her, give her an opportunity 
          to come to the United States."
Palmer:   "Still, Nina didn't deserve whatever it is that happened to her."
Hans:     "And neither did I, and neither did Rory."
Palmer:   "Well hopefully we'll somehow get through all this."
Hans:     "I love you a lot."
Palmer:   [laughs]  "Good. Bye-bye."

Opening his cross-examination, DuBois first kept trying to find ways to
feed to the jury the claim that Hans had been sleeping in the CRX
(accounting for why he removed the seat), each time running into
"Objection: No foundation" or "Hearsay".  He did manage to get Palmer to
say that Child Protective Services had told her they wouldn't let the
children stay at her house if Hans, subject of a criminal investigation,
were staying inside.

DuBois encountered a similar problem when attempting to ask Palmer how 
she became aware that the CRX floorboards were wet:  Hora objected
there's no foundation about how the water got in the car, or any
foundation for supposing that Palmer was aware of it.  (DuBois wanted to 
feed the jury a non-sinister explanation for the wet floorboards:
Prosecution claims Hans had attempted to expunge incriminating

DuBois:  "Is Hans a violent person?"
Palmer:  "No."
DuBois:  "How long have you known Hans?"
Palmer:  [laughs]  "For 43 years."
DuBois:  "Is Hans the type of person who did violent things?"
Palmer:  "No."
DuBois:  "Are you aware of any violent act Hans has ever done to any
         human being?"
Palmer:  "No."

DuBois got Palmer to acknowledge having memory gaps since the cancer
death in 2000 of her husband of 29 years, Berkeley Symphony violinist
Bernard Palmer.  "But I never had a good memory, to tell you the truth."

Palmer commented on the wooden pillar just inside her front door where
police found a drop of Nina's blood, of unknown age, saying it was
pretty filthy because people pass by it routinely, and it had not been
cleaned in an extremely long time (meaning that Nina's blood drop could
easily be years old):

Palmer:  "I never cleaned it because I was going to refinish it one day,
         but I never got around to it,
DuBois:  "So it had marks on it for how many years?"
Palmer:  "Thirty years."
DuBois:  "It seems like that area of the post is smudge city?"
Palmer:  "That's true. It's very unsightly."
DuBois:  "So as you walked by there, if you wanted to put on some shoes,
         you might grab hold of it?"
Palmer:  "That's right."

DuBois:  "Were those smudges there when you left?"  [television monitor]
Palmer:  "Yes."
DuBois:  "Is that how it looked when you got back?"
Palmer:  "Yes."

DuBois also asked Palmer questions regarding the two blood drops, Hans's
and Nina's, likewise of unknown age, found on a sleeping bag stuffsack
retrieved from the Honda CRX.  Palmer confirmed that Hans and Nina,
during their marriage, had often slept over at Palmer's house:

DuBois:  "Did they ever use a sleeping bag when they slept there?"
Palmer:  "I think so."
DuBois:  "Did Nina ever have any problems with nose bleeding?"
Palmer:  "She could have.  But I just don't remember."

Asked why she and Hans hadn't helped the numerous searches through the
East Bay hills for Nina, Palmer said they filed "unwelcome in the
searches", and also are both prone to bad cases of poison oak.

DuBois:  "Does your son have any social skills?"
Palmer:  [laughs heartily]  "Hans is a programmer."
DuBois:  "A nerd among nerds?"
Palmer:  [laughs]  "Yes."

This concluded Palmer's testimony, and court will resume tomorrow with
more prosecution testimony from the Reiser children's teachers.

[1] Normally, e-mail is inadmissable in court under the "hearsay" rules, 
because it usually cannot be proven to the court's satisfaction as
having been actually written and sent by the purported author.  There
are exceptions where means exist to validate the authorship such as
occured in a, um... infamously litigious church's criminal charges
brought against critic Keith Henson for "making terrorist threats",
"attempting to make terrorist threats", and "interfering with a
religion":  A sheriff asked Henson whether he had written some e-mails
that the church alleged to make terrorist threats, and he said yes, he
had sent those.  

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