Murder defendant Hans Reiser lacks social skills and is a klutz, somewhat arrogant, self-centered and a nerd amongst nerds, his mother told jurors at his trial today.
But Reiser, 43, also is non-violent, Beverly Palmer said as she concluded two days of testimony in his trial on charges that he murdered wife Nina Reiser, 31, who disappeared on Sept. 3, 2006.
Palmer laughed when Reiser's attorney, William DuBois, asked if he lacked social skills.
“Hans is a computer programmer and programmers have a reputation for lacking social skills,” Palmer said.
But in a more serious vain, Palmer said that she's not aware of Reiser ever getting into fights when he was growing up or ever doing anything violent to another person.
Hans and Nina Reiser married in 1999 but Nina Reiser filed for divorce in August of 2004 and they had been undergoing bitter divorce proceedings for more than two years when she disappeared.
Nina Reiser was awarded both legal and physical custody of the couple's two children, but Hans Reiser was allowed to have them every other weekend and one weeknight a week.
The body of Nina Reiser, who was last seen alive when she dropped off the couple's two children at the house on Exeter Drive in Oakland where Hans Reiser lived with his mother, has never been found despite extensive searches in the Oakland hills and elsewhere.
Hans Reiser has insisted that he is innocent.
DuBois told jurors in his opening statement last month that Nina Reiser might still be alive and could be in hiding in Russia, where she was born and trained as a physician.
Alternatively, DuBois said Nina might have been killed by Russian spies or mobsters, alleging that her family has connections with Russian spy agencies.
Under questioning by prosecutor Paul Hora, Palmer admitted that Hans Reiser told her in a phone call 20 days after Nina disappeared that he wished she had been put in jail and their two children would be better off
Palmer confirmed that in a Sept. 23, 2006, phone call that was recorded by police he told her that on one occasion Nina kicked him and then called police in an effort to get him arrested.
Hans Reiser said the officers who responded figured out Nina had instigated the incident and wanted to arrest her, but he said he talked them out of doing so.
Hans Reiser told his mother that letting Nina go “was a mistake I've paid for heavily” and said “things would have gone better if she'd gone to jail.”
In the phone call, Hans Reiser said Nina “really was nuts,” “looks for every possible way she can screw me” and falsely alleged that the couple's son, Rory, now 8, was suffering from various illnesses “because she hated me and Rory was a proxy for me.”
After his mother told Hans Reiser that Nina “didn't deserve whatever happened to her,” even if she wasn't a perfect wife or mother, Reiser said, “Yeah, and neither did I and neither did Rory.”
Hans Reiser also said, “I think my children shouldn't be endangered by her.”
Hora also played the tape of the phone call in his opening statement and told jurors that it amounted to a list of reasons why “Nina is dead.”
Some of the most interesting moments in Reiser's trial today occurred in hearings outside the presence of jurors.
Just before the lunch break, DuBois asked Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman if he could ask Palmer if she knew that Reiser was sleeping in the Honda Civic CRX that he normally drove but disappeared at the same time that Nina was last seen alive.
Hora has told jurors that when the car was found by Oakland police near Exeter Drive on Sept. 18, 2006, 15 days after Nina disappeared, its front passenger seat was missing, which the prosecutor said was “oneincredibly unusual thing.”
DuBois said evidence that Reiser was sleeping in the car “would explain his conduct” after Nina disappeared.
Referring to Palmer, who was out of the courtroom at the time, Goodman said to DuBois, “You want to ask that of this witness, whose memory is faulty at best?”
When DuBois asked why the judge had doubts about Palmer's memory, Goodman said, “I don't remember,” in an apparently sarcastic reference to Palmer repeatedly saying “I don't remember” when she was asked questions during her testimony.
After the lunch break, Reiser himself earned the judge's wrath when he addressed the court to express his concerns about a family court hearing on Wednesday about the fate of the couple's two children, who were taken to Russia by Nina's mother during the holidays last year and never returned, in violation of a court order.
The couple's son, Rory, returned to the Bay Area briefly last month to testify at his father's trial but went back to Russia immediately after he testified.
Goodman has previously said that the matter is out of his hands and he doesn't have the authority to order the children to return to the U.S.
When Reiser discussed an appellate court ruling on the children's status, Goodman cut him off and said, “In all due respect, I can read a Court of Appeals ruling better than you can” and told Reiser that his comments were out of order.
When Reiser asked if he could be excused from his murder trial on Wednesday so he could attend the family court hearing, which will be held in another courthouse across town in Oakland, Goodman said no.
Antonios Zografos, an Oakland man who was Nina's boyfriend when she disappeared, is expected to testify on Wednesday.
— Bay City News