Thursday, April 17, 2008

Duck-Billed Defense

Well, here's a defense that you don't hear in court every day. Or any day, from what I can tell. I've never heard it before. But, then again, this involves Hans Reiser, the guy who is on trial for the murder of his wife (who has not been found, alive or dead) who claimed that the techno-geek S&M crowd in San Francisco could be the culprit. That is correct; technology geeks who like to have S&M sex. (I guess with each other, but I doubt that any techno-geek would be all that discriminate about who he has sex with, really.) I didn't know that one could be topped, but it might have been.

The trial is finally at the closing arguments stage. The thing has been going on since at least November. There have been at least 60 witnesses. Hans himself was on the stand for eleven days. It would have been considerably shorter if his incessant rambling and his need to insert every miniscule detail possible into his testimony had been curtailed a bit. But it wasn't. Thus, five months later, here we are. And after five months, five months, that the defense has had to prepare for this moment, what do they come up with as their parting words to the jury before deliberations? That's right. He's a platypus.

A platypus is a freaky looking semi-aquatic little mammal that lives in Australia. It is also known as the duck billed platypus because it sports a duck-like bill (clever). Behold! A duck-billed platypus:


platypusNow, just so we don't get too far off track with all of the legal analogies being made to Australian mammals, behold! Hans Reiser:

Yeah, I'm just not seeing it. But I'm not his attorney, William DuBois is. And he told the jurors, "Hans' conduct can be interpreted as being guilty. It can also be interpreted as innocence, and a product of his own platypus-ian personality, as we will see. He is odd in every way." Dude, he's not the only odd one there. May I just ask what in the hell is a "platypus-ian personality"? Are you saying he is one of only five mammals that lay eggs? Are you saying that he is so revered in Australia that he is featured on the Australian 20 cent coin? What else?

"He is odd in every way. Odd in the way he carries himself. Odd in the way he acts. Odd in the way he speaks." Yes, this is all very, very odd. He got that right.
DuBois continued with, "Why did he act the way he acts? He does not understand social cues. He shows almost no emotion is because he has no emotion." And that makes him like a platypus? Well, yes, according to Mr. DuBois who continued along the same odd mammalian line with, "He is the duck-billed platypus of criminal defendants, the duck-billed platypus amongst some of his peers, the duck-billed platypus amongst normal people. Yet he must get the same consideration under the law." The same consideration as what? People who are not being compared to a platypus?! ("That Hans. He always was the duck-billed platypus of the group.") Oh, and as DuBois was telling the jurors this, he was HOLDING a stuffed PLATYPUS. Yes. I guess it was so the jury could see just how ridiculous it is to be comparing anything, other than another platypus, to a platypus! In fact, here:

Please note the drawing of the male sitting behind Mr. DuBois. I don't know who he is supposed to be, but I have the feeling that the expression drawn on his face would have to sum up his (and other's listening to the "web-footed, duck-billed, Australian mammal defense") feelings on the matter (which appear to be, "WTF? Did he say 'platypus'?")

Now, I question this defense mainly because, well, it's freaking odd. But also because Mr. DuBois and Hans have not exactly gotten along just swimmingly over the course of the trial. No, there was the time when Hans referred to himself as an "asshole" and Mr. DuBois seized that opportunity to make sure that he understood that Hans was saying he was an "asshole" at least five times. So that's just another reason to question this defense tactic (not that you really needed another reason after you first heard 'platypus'.)

Mr. DuBois continues his "defense" closing arguments by going over how Hans and Nina met in 1998 in Russia when he picked her out of European Connections, a mail-order bride catalog. (She was "5279 Nina". Catchy.) He then showed the picture of her that was included in the catalog and he mentioned that she also included that she wanted to "meet a good man." DuBois said, "She missed the mark there, with all due respect," he said to his client.

What he was getting at (in the oddest of all odd platypus-ish ways) was that Nina had ulteriorplatypus motives by marrying Hans. He was suggesting that she wanted to marry him in order to obtain American citizenship and when she had her citizenship, she would want to leave him. He flat out said that there was no way she could love Hans. He told the jurors, "She had an ulterior motive to marry Hans. It couldn't have been out of love that she married Hans Reiser. I can't see anybody loving Hans Reiser. He has to be one of the least attractive people you can imagine, and she's a doll." This is HIS attorney who is defending him! (I figured I should point that out because it's really hard to tell, I know.)

platypus"My client is an ugly and unlovable platypus who did not kill his wife." That's really not the kind of thing I want to hear my own attorney say in his closing arguments about me as a way of trying to get me acquitted of murder. No, I'd prefer something a little bit more, um, flattering? Positive? Nice? How about nice? Nicer would a huge improvement at this point. But that didn't happen. No, instead we got, "My client is such an easy person to dislike. He just comes across so lousy."


DuBois resumes his closing arguments on Thursday (perhaps by then, he will have come up with some sort of pouched marsupial to compare Hans to.). I hope he uses the time in between to do a little bit more thinking about this defense strategy that he's come up with. You know, the male platypus have these little spur-like things on their heels (it's like they're just built for bein' cowboys!). They're hollow and they are connected to these sacs in their legs that contain poison which is lethal when the platypus uses his toxic spur-claws against smaller rodents or small fish. So he has just compared his client, on trial for murder, to a weird-ass animal that has the hidden ability to kill other things when it wants to. What could possibly go wrong?

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