HAYWARD (KCBS) — Convicted murderer Hans Reiser wore an orange prison uniform with two file boxes in front of him as he appeared in court Tuesday to outline his strategy in the wrongful death lawsuit that was filed against him by his two children.
Reiser, 48, is serving a term of 15 years to life in state prison for killing his wife, 31-year-old Nina Reiser, at his home in the Oakland hills on Sept. 3, 2006.
As the jury selection phase of the civil case continued Tuesday morning, Reiser asked potential jurors if it would be moral to kill someone if that person were abusing children.
KCBS’ Jeffrey Schaub Reports:
Reiser, who often appeared confused, asked one juror, “What if the only way to stop harm was killing the person? Would it be moral to kill that person in order to protect the innocent?”
The man Reiser was questioning answered, “It’s never moral, in my mind, to kill anyone for any reason.”
Reiser, who is acting as his own attorney, took long pauses in between questions. He later excused that juror.
By his questions, Reiser appeared to be indicating that he will argue during the trial that he killed his wife to stop her from harming their two children, Rory, now 12, and Niorline, now 11 and suing him for more than $15 million.
Opening statements in the wrongful death case may begin later on Tuesday if jury selection is completed in time.
Reiser was convicted in 2008 of killing Nina Reiser, who disappeared after dropping off the couple’s two children at the house at 6979 Exeter Drive in the Oakland hills that Hans Reiser shared with his mother.
Nina Reiser, who was born in Russia and was trained as a physician there, married Hans, a native of Oakland, in 1999 but filed for divorce in 2004 and was granted legal custody of their children.
At the time of her disappearance, the divorce hadn’t yet been finalized and Hans Reiser was allowed to have the children on alternate weekends.
Hans Reiser was convicted of first-degree murder on April 28, 2008, at the end of a six-month trial. Four months later, in an unusual deal, prosecutor Paul Hora and Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman agreed to allow Reiser to plead guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree murder in exchange for leading authorities to his wife’s body.
In his trial, Reiser had denied murdering his wife, but in a tape-recorded statement to authorities on Aug. 21, 2008, Reiser said he killed Nina by hitting her in the face and strangling her while their children played computer games in another room.
Reiser said he had become “enraged” at Nina and believed she was inventing illnesses in the children as a way of getting back at him.
The wrongful death suit, which was filed on Aug. 28, 2008, states that Rory and Niorline Reiser “have suffered a tremendous loss, including the loss of love, support and companionship, comfort, affection and society of Nina.”
The suit seeks unspecified general and special damages as well as punitive and exemplary damages.
The children have been living with Nina’s mother in St. Petersburg, Russia, since December 2006.
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