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Linux programmer Reiser requests new murder trial

Hans Reiser, who was convicted of killing his wife in a bizarre 2008 courtroom drama, is demanding a new trial. The main claim in his rambling 117-page filing is that his attorney forced him to take the stand against his will.

Hans Reiser mug shot California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

Hans Reiser, the jailed Linux programmer convicted in 2008 of killing his estranged wife, is going to federal court to demand a new trial, according to a 117-page handwritten filing posted by Wired reporter David Kravets, who covered the bizarre courtroom drama gavel to gavel in Oakland, Calif.

Reiser--known to the technology world as the founder of the ReiserFS file system software, claims, among other things, that his attorney forced him to take the stand against his will.

"My court appointed lawyers, the judges, the DDA, the police, C.P.S., County Counsel, the Public Defender, in short the whole local legal system, even the clerks, once they committed a single wrong against me, acquired a legal incentive to commit any wrong necessary to ensure I would never be proven innocent, so as to immunize themselves from legal liability...," he wrote in the rambling filing (PDF, which continues here, here, here, and here).

Reiser was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2006 killing of his wife, with whom he was undergoing a bitter divorce. The jury convicted him largely on circumstantial evidence and despite the fact that Nina Reiser's body hadn't been found before trial. He was sentenced to 15 years to life in a deal he worked out with prosecutors in exchange for leading police to his victim's body in a secluded area of a regional park.

The late Nina Reiser California Department of Justice

During the trial, Reiser's veteran criminal defense attorney, William DuBois, used a "geek defense," as CNET witnessed in the courtroom, maintaining that while Reiser may be strange, arrogant, even abnormal, his odd behavior following Nina's disappearance wasn't evidence of murder. For example, neighbors saw him hosing down his car's interior and he also removed his car's front passenger seat. Why? Because geeks do odd things, DuBois maintained, more or less.

But many believe what ultimately sank Reiser was the decision to put the suspect on the stand, where he was prone to go off on tangents and lose sight of questions asked of him. He smeared the mother of his two children, alleging, among other things, that she was likely hiding out in her native Russia with money she stole from his now defunct company, Namesys.

The decision to take the stand, according to press accounts, was at Reiser's urging. However, Reiser now says DuBois made him testify in an attempt to derail any chance of a successful appeal, according to Wired.

"I believe that is why he had me take the stand and tell a story at his direction that he knew would not be believed," Reiser wrote and Wired reported.

DuBois told Wired that wasn't true: "I guess he can't face himself on the subject and wants to put it on me," DuBois told Wired. "All I can tell you is no one forced him to take the stand. I can say that unequivocally. It was him and him alone who has put himself where he is right now."

The Reiser children are living with Nina's mother in Russia, Wired's Kravets reported, adding that courts "are loath to grant new trials based on trial-strategy decisions, meaning Reiser's chances of success are slim."