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Reiser Wrongful Death Trial Goes To Jury

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Hans Reiser was convicted of murdering his wife Nina in 2006. (CBS)

Hans Reiser was convicted of murdering his wife Nina in 2006. (CBS)

OAKLAND (CBS SF) – An attorney who represents Hans Reiser’s two children asked jurors Monday to order Reiser to pay millions of dollars of damages for depriving them of their mother, Nina Reiser, by murdering her.

In his closing argument in Reiser’s wrongful death trial in Alameda County Superior Court, the children’s attorney, Arturo Gonzalez, said, “I ask you to do some justice for Nina and her family. They didn’t deserve this.”

Hans Reiser, 48, is serving a term of 15 years to life in state prison for murdering Nina Reiser, 31, at his home in the Oakland hills on Sept. 3, 2006, while they were in the midst of divorce proceedings.

Nina had been awarded custody of the children but Hans was allowed to have them on alternate weeks.

The couple’s children, Rory, 12, and Niorline, 11, have been living in Russia, where Nina was born and raised, with Nina’s mother since December 2006.

Gonzalez is asking jurors to award a total of $25 million to Rory and Niorline. He said each child should get $10 million in damages and Reiser should be ordered to pay an additional $5 million in punitive damages to deter other husbands from murdering their wives.

Gonzalez said that although it’s uncertain if Reiser has any assets at this time, he said Reiser has an opportunity to create valuable business ideas while he’s in state prison because of his experience as a computer engineer who still owns a software company.

Jurors deliberated for about 90 minutes Monday and will resume their deliberations Tuesday morning.

Addressing jurors in an hour-long closing argument, Reiser was unapologetic for killing Nina, saying he did so to stop her from harming their children by inventing illnesses in an effort to make him look like a bad father so she could get custody of them.

Reiser alleged that Nina suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, which is a disorder in which parents fake illnesses in their children to gain attention and sympathy, and said there was nothing he could do to cure her of that syndrome.

Reiser said, “My heart didn’t want to kill her but I forced myself to kill her” because he believed a textbook’s assertion that people who have Munchausen syndrome by proxy and have elevated levels of the hormone oxytocin “are like heroin addicts” and can’t be helped.

As he did last week, Reiser said his actions were similar to those of Moses when he killed a slave master and then hid the body in the sand.

Reiser, who hid Nina’s body until after he was convicted of murder, said, “If you enjoy hurting an innocent person, I will kill you just like Moses and would and bury the body just like Moses did and then lie about it.”

Turning to the topic of his children’s future, Reiser and said he would like to have a chance to teach them important lessons about life.

He said Rory and Niorline “need someone who believes in them and their success.”

Reiser added, “If we were a team, we could build a business. There are things I’d like to pass on to my kids that could be worth money.”

Reiser grew emotional when he recalled activities he participated in with his children, such as playing games, eating ice cream, singing songs and holding their hands when they went to bed at night.

“Those are my happiest memories,” he said.

Gonzalez said he agrees with Reiser that his children need compassion and caring. However, Gonzalez said, “They had it, but Mr. Reiser took it away” by killing their mother.

Referring to Reiser’s lengthy explanation of why he killed Nina, Gonzalez said, “There is not an ounce of remorse in this man and I can’t believe it.”

Gonzalez said jurors shouldn’t believe the allegation by Reiser, who has been dressed in an orange prison jail clothes and guarded by three prison guards during his four-day trial, that Nina invented illnesses in their children and lived in an alternate reality.

Pointing at Reiser, Gonzalez said, “If anybody has been living in an alternate reality it’s that man in the orange jumpsuit.”

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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