Hans Reiser Confesses, Leads Police to Murdered Wife's Body
In a stunning turnaround of a case that kept the Linux community captivated for months, Hans Reiser has confessed to strangling his wife and lead authorities to her body in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Reiser — well-known in the Linux community as the creator of ReiserFS — was charged with his wife's murder after her disappearance in 2006, and stood trial beginning last November. In what became known as the "geek defense", Reiser's attorneys — with whom he frequently fought openly in court — attempted to paint him as a misunderstood and socially inept computer programmer who was unable to interact normally with others. The ploy failed, in particular due to Reiser's bizarre courtroom antics, and he was convicted of his wife's murder at the end of April.
Rumors surfaced in early June that prosecutors had offered Reiser a deal in exchange for a confession and the whereabouts of Nina Reiser's body. Details were slim, though it was speculated that the deal would be contingent on an autopsy, where Reiser would only receive a reduced sentence if the murder was determined to have lacked prior intent. Prosecutors have yet to reveal whether a reduced sentence was offered, but unidentified sources close to the matter confirmed that a deal had been accepted.
Yesterday, Reiser — handcuffed to his attorney, William Du Bois — lead investigators to the body, buried on the edge of a hill less than half a mile from the home the 44-year-old shared with his mother, and only 200 yards from a residential area. Du Bois described Reiser as having "no difficulty" locating the body, and said it would probably not have been discovered otherwise. Members of the jury that convicted him, as well as friends and family of Nina Reiser, expressed outrage at the suggestion of a reduced sentence.
Even if the court accepts the deal and issues a reduced sentence, the prosecutors still have an ace up their sleeves. Reiser waived his Fifth Amendment right and testified in his own defense at trial — testimony in which he declared under oath that he was not responsible for his wife's disappearance, had not murdered her, and did not know her whereabouts. Unless the final deal — expected to be second-degree murder, with a sentence of 15-years-to-life instead of the 25-years-to-life for a first degree conviction — included an immunity grant, Reiser is subject to being tried for perjury. Depending on California law and how the sentences are carried out, he could end up with a longer prison term than he faced for the original first-degree conviction.