[conspire] Reiser trial: DNA tests partially flubbed, defence motion for mistrial

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Mon Feb 4 03:33:12 PST 2008

Following up on one very strange forensics claim in the press, and some
typos/gaffes on my part:

> Oakland PD criminalist Shannon Cavness [...]
> commented that the easiest way to "lyse" (break apart) blood cells and
> their DNA is to wash them with water.

As I read the news accounts that relayed Cavness's remarks, I was
thinking "WTF?", but Deirdre the forensics fan covers this point nicely
at http://dsmoen.livejournal.com/160047.html:

  Subject:  If This Were True, We'd All Fall Apart

  "Earlier in the morning, and still under direct questioning by
  prosecutor Paul Hora, Cavness told the jury that the simplest way to
  wash blood -- and DNA evidence -- out of material is to use cold water.
  She said blood cells lyse -- or break apart -- when introduced to water."

  Keep me away from that water!

  But it's pretty clear to anyone who's watched any forensics shows that
  washing an area with water does not remove blood evidence. It just
  washes most of it away, but there certainly other tests one can do.
  (Then again, most people think that washing a glass until it appears
  clean means it is clean, but experienced chemists know otherwise.)

  Anyhow, it's hard to tell without looking at the court transcripts
  themselves, but I sincerely hoping that most of this is stupid
  reporting and not stupid forensics. 

I _do_ fear stupid forensics, given how unimpressive Cavness's testimony
has been, generally.  This whole notion of transporting a corpse in the
passenger side of a Honda 2-seater after unbolting a bucket seat -- why
not just in the hatchback? -- and then seriously expecting to get blood
stains out with water and 1/2 roll of paper towels seems wacked.  But
then, prosecution's entire theory has the air of post-hoc invention
about it.  Remember the fantasy about Hans lugging Nina's corpse
downstairs to where the living areas are -- in a house whose only exits
are on the top floor?  I'm increasingly reminded of preliminary-hearing
Judge Julie Conger's remark that she found prosecutors' theory entirely

> Tu 2008-01-22:  Prosecution's case continued with a return visit from
> Oakland PD criminalist Shannon Cavness, talking about items found in
> Hans Reiser's decrepit 1988 Honda Civic CRX 2-seater a week after police
> followed Hans to it on Mo 2006-09-18 on Monterey Blvd., in Oakland's
> Montclair District.  She described it as in "dirty condition", listing
> clutter including a sleeping bag, absorbent cloths, a siphon pump,
> plastic trash bags, a roll of paper towels missing about half its 55
> sheets, a credit union receipt, a Target receipt from Mo 2006-09-11,
> various food items (both eaten and not), toiletry articles, Stockton and
                           ^^^^^  meaning: wrappers thereof, etc.
> Manteca street maps, two books on murder investigations, a Manteca
> U-Haul printout from Su 2006-09-17 that detailed a projected trip from
> there to Oakland, a Manteca 7-Eleven receipt from the same day, a
> Fremont Motel 6 receipt for an overnight stay on Su 2006-09-10, a
> 40-piece socket wrench set and receipt from Kragen's Auto Parts, Hans's
> We 2006-09-13 Redwood City traffic citation, a Th 2006-09-14 newspaper
> article entitled " and 12 mm bolts consistent with those used for the
                   ^ "Police search home of missing woman's spouse" 
> missing right-side car seat.  She said the floorboard was very wet (1/2
> to 1 inch of standing water), at the time police found the car, and
> commented that the easiest way to "lyse" (break apart) blood cells and
> their DNA is to wash them with water.

> What followed after Weisenberg's testimony was yet another bombshell:
> Defence counsel DuBois filed a _motion for mistrial_, alleging improper
> conduct (a "false statement") by Judge Larry Goodman in front of the
> jury on We 2007-12-12, which DuBois said has prejudiced the jury and
> improperly excluded evidence from them.  To review, this was when DuBois
> was cross-examining Nina's best friend and fellow Russian mail-order
> bridge Ellen Doren, and asked if she'd pursued son Rory's claims to have
  ^^^^^^ er, "bride"
> observed Nina leaving the Exeter Drive house unharmed.  Doren, who has
> consistently been extremely hostile to defence, had said merely "No",
> DuBois attempted to follow up, Hora objected, and Goodman angrily and
> very loudly intervened.  It went like this:

> On cross-examination, Morasch admitted that the cessation of charges to
> Hans's VISA card after August was an obvious and simple consequence of
> it being maxed out.  DuBois then asked Morasch if he were familiar with
> how Hans paid his employees:  "No."  (The point, which DuBois is sure to
> bring out earlier, is that Hans paid Namesys's Russian staff through
            ^^^^^^^  "later"
> occasional cash transfers.)

> Did Morasch even know that Latvia was _a separate country_?  At this
> point, Morasch pretty much conceded DuBois's point, that as sudden
                                                           ^^ "a"
> infusion of $8,000 from Latvia was peculiar for Nina, who had no history
> with that country at all.

> DuBois interjected to point out that the matter of custody was still
> unclear, and that defence believes Family Court's ability to oversee the 
> children's welfare from halfway around the world was questionable.
> Judge Goodman acknowledged that this subject was still "on appeal" (and 
> both sides attorneys "stipulated" this fact, which means they agreed to 
> regard it as settled and not contest it, nor be able to examine
> witnesses on that point) -- which dancing around defendant Hans Reiser's
> biggest sort point (the spiriting of his children away to Russia against
          ^^^^ "sore"
> court orders) prompted him to finally speak out-loud, attempting to
> address Goodman, in front of the jurors.

> On cross-examination, asked Fanucchi if (in effect) the messages had
                       ^ DuBois
> been marked as unheard until Sa 2006-09-23, when Reiser heard them for
> the first time.

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