[conspire] Reiser case: two days of police testimony

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Wed Jan 16 00:51:14 PST 2008

Mo 2008-01-14:  Hans Reiser's trial on a charge of second-degree murder
resumed with prosecution's next witness, Oakland PD criminologist (CSI)
Bruce Christensen, presenting dozens of photos he'd taken of Hans's
Exeter Drive house, Nina's apartment in Temescal District, of her
minivan, and of Mark McGothigan's 6952 Simpson St. house (McGothigan
being the boyfriend of Hans's mother, Beverly Palmer) where Hans Reiser
surrendered himself to the police on Tu 2006-10-10.

(Incredibly, observers expect that we're still weeks away from defence
counsel starting his half of the testimony.)

Prosecutor Paul Hora showed a Berkeley Bowl Market surveillance video
clip of Nina Reiser and the children shopping, around 2 pm on 
Su 2006-09-03 (the same one shown during Hora's opening statement).
This recording set to rest prior uncertainty over whether she had
dropped off the children before shopping.  Johnson testified as to the
footage's validity, i.e., actually showing Nina:  On cross-examination,
DuBois asked how it could be shown to be reliable.  Johnson replied that
it had been cross-checked with store receipts and witnesses.

Next, Oakland PD officer Shan Johnson described trailing Hans's car in
an unmarked minivan with officer Mark Battle on Fr 2006-09-08 from the
Exeter Drive house down CA-13 and I-580 to Joaquin Miller Elementary
School, that Hans had frequently slowed and sped up (between 45 and 70
MPH), changed lanes "without apparent purpose", changed directions
(going on and off the freeway), parked under some trees for about 15
minutes (apparently doing nothing), and at one point went southbound on
the CA-13 freeway at 10 MPH.  Johnson noted that Hans became more
aggressive in his techniques over time and characterised all this as "a
form of counter-surveillance".  He commented that he had eventually
given up pursuit, out of concern that he might be blowing cover.

The officer had also taken Nina's razor, underwear, and two contact-lens
cases, which were later used to match DNA from blood specks at the
Exeter Drive house and the sleeping bag stuffsack in Hans's car.

Johnson also described finding Nina's US and Russian Federation
passports (along with the children's passports) in the apartment with
about $1,980 in cash, remarking "Usually when somebody travels abroad,
they use their passports to enter and exit the country."  Defence
attorney William DuBois followed up, on cross-examination, asking why
Johnson took the money and passports, but not her laptop, which might
have had vital last-day e-mails.  His reply didn't directly address the

Johnson: "I thought having the passports showed she had not exited or
         entered another country."
DuBois:  "If Nina Reiser left the country using a different name, there's
         no way for you to know it?"
Johnson: "No sir."

DuBois also quizzed Johnson about his surveillance of Hans's driving,
asking how police determine the subject knows he/she is being followed.
Johnson rejoined that sometimes, the subject smiles and waves -- but 
never continues counter-surveillance.

DuBois:  "So should people who know they're being followed by cops just
         smile and wave?  What should they do and what's the best way 
         to stop police surveillance?"
Johnson: "I'm sure many people want to know the answer to that question."

<laughter among the jurors>

Tu 2008-01-15: Shan Johnson's cross-examination resumed with DuBois
grilling him on his claim that fruit from a "cherry or a plum tree as
well as other plants" found on the tires of Nina's Honda Odyssey minivan
when it was found on Fernwood Drive was "consistent with" a cherry leaf
found in Hans's Honda CRX.  Johnson cited the presence of cherry trees
growing on Fernwood but not near Hans's Exeter Drive house, and
suggested that the two cars had been both on Fernwood Drive at some

DuBois:  "Did you ever determine the source of that leaf?  What cherry
         tree it came from?"
Johnson: "No, sir."
DuBois:  "Where was the leaf when you first saw it?"
Johnson: "On the floorboard of the passenger side of the car."
DuBois:  "Were there any leaves inside the minivan?"
Johnson: "Not to my knowledge.  No."

Oakland PD officer Eugene Guerrero appeared next, talking about later
surveillance by about a dozen plainclothes officers (including one in a
police airplane) of Hans on Mo 2006-09-18, after Hans left a
child-custody hearing in Oakland, travelling in fellow judo student
Artem Mishin's BMW:  After Mishin dropped him off at Ashby/San Pablo in
Berkeley, Hans took a circuitous 32-minute walk to his Honda CRX -- for
which police had been searching.  In a police video re-enactment shown
to the court, Guerrero traversed Hans's twisty walking route,
occasionally turning around and retracing his steps.  The recording
stressed Guerrero (supposedly imitating Hans) hunched over and
continually peering around suspiciously as he walked.  Guerrero
characterised all this activity as "counter-surveillance" measures.

Under DuBois's cross-examination, Guerrero admitted that the video
seemed odder (and shorter) than Hans's actual walk, because it omitted
Hans's time waiting on street corners, talking on telephones, and just
plain stopping and looking around.  (Jurors were also shown a
re-enactment videotape of Hans's drive from Berkeley to Montclair
District, during which he stopped and walked away from his car four

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