"Misunderstood" programmer receives 25-to-life

Wrapping up six months of trial and three days of deliberations, a jury found Linux programmer and ReiserFS creator Hans Reiser guilty for the first-degree murder of his estranged wife, Nina Reiser.

Nina Reiser was reported missing on September 5, 2006, after she failed to pick up her kids from school. She was last seen dropping them off with Hans on September 3, and reportedly failed to meet her best friend afterwards. While police never found Nina’s body, they did find traces of her blood in Hans’ residence and car.

Hans claimed Nina fled to Russia, where the couple met in 1998, after he accused her of embezzling money from his company, Namesys. Prosecutors alleged, however, that Hans killed her instead, possibly by strangling her to death.

Reiser’s lawyer, William DuBois, tried to paint Reiser as the misunderstood geek, and cautioned jurors against reading too much into Reiser’s outwardly suspicious behavior. In one example, investigators found Reiser’s car -- a 1998 Honda CRX located several miles from his house -- to contain two books on murder investigations. Further, the car was missing its passenger seat and flooded with nearly an inch of water.

Responding to the findings, Reiser said he assumed that auto engineers always “put a hole in the car.”

Reiser’s “geek defense” culminated with his appearance before jurors on the witness stand – a move that Wired’s Threat Level thinks “may have been [his] undoing.” In front of the entire courtroom, Reiser explained away nearly every accusation thrown his way in explanations described as “lengthy and verbose.” He purchased the murder books, for example, in order to better understand how the police were operating in his investigation.

Jurors were visibly skeptical of Reiser’s 11 days on the stand: eyewitness accounts report jurors laughing to themselves and shaking their heads in disbelief, and Alameda Court Judge Larry Goodman was spotted smirking to himself on at least one occasion.

For now, the future of ReiserFS, and its parent company Namesys, remain in jeopardy. Reiser put the company up for sale in December 2006, and as of yet the company is unsold. Namesys employee Alexander Lyamin, writing in the Linux Kernel Mailing List in December 2006, said his company will continue its work absent of Reiser’s leadership, and attempt to appoint a “proxy” to run operations until a better solution could be found. At this time, Namesys’ website is current inaccessible.

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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