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Hans Reiser might be a mental case

Says his lawyer to the judge
Wed Jul 02 2008, 08:41

CONVICTED MURDERER, and inventor of the ReiserFS Linux filesystem, Hans Reiser might be "mentally incompetent," his defence lawyer wrote to the trial judge on Tuesday.

Reiser's attorney William DuBois wrote that, "In my carefully considered opinion, defendant Hans Reiser may be mentally incompetent as a result of a mental disorder or developmental disability." In April, a jury convicted Hans Reiser of having murdered his wife Nina in 2006.

The suggestion that Reiser might be bonkers came up about a week before his sentencing hearing. On July 9, Alameda County, California Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman is expected to sentence Reiser to 25 years to life in prison for his wife's murder. Such doubts about Reiser's mental competency will likely delay his sentencing hearing to a later date.

The court filing by Reiser's lawyer also means that any deal for Reiser to lead authorities to his wife's body for a reduced sentence or earlier parole eligibility is probably off the table. Reiser and his attorney reportedly had been negotiating for such a deal recently.

If Reiser's mental competency is contested, that question might have to be decided by a jury. If found to be mentally incompetent, Reiser would committed to a mental institution until he is again deemed competent, at which time he would be sentenced and remanded.

Reiser's defence attorneys didn't raise the question of his mental competency before trial.

During trial, Hans Reiser carried a thick stack of file folders containing court documents into court each day, took voluminous notes on legal pads and conferred with his attorney so frequently that he seemed to be distracting him. He even interrupted his lawyer during his cross-examination of prosecution witnesses. He didn't seem confused, but headstrong.

His defence did not portray Reiser as mentally insane, or suffering from either diminished mental capacity or sudden extreme emotional distress, both forms of temporary insanity.

DuBois attempted to characterise Reiser as very socially inept - what became called the "geek defence" - and he suggested at one point that Reiser might suffer from Asperger's syndrome, which is a mild form of autism.

Reiser's prosecutor Paul Hora said, "This is complete and total nonsense. All of a sudden he's incompetent a week before he gets sentenced." µ



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