HAYWARD -- Jury selection began Monday in a wrongful-death suit filed against Hans Reiser by his two children over the loss of their mother, whom Reiser was convicted of murdering in 2008.
The children -- Rory, 12, and Niorline, 11, Reiser -- are suing their father for $15.2 million for emotional damage they suffered as a result of their mother's death.
The children's lawyer, Arturo Gonzalez, said he believes that Reiser, a computer programmer, may have money and assets in the United States or Russia, Nina's native country where the children now live. Reiser, who is representing himself, claims that he does not because he has been in prison since his conviction.
The beginning of Monday's trial was marked by impatience from the judge and the children's legal team. The complaint against Reiser was originally filed in August 2008 by the children's maternal grandmother and legal guardian, Irina Sharanova. The case has been stalled as Reiser filed various motions to delay proceedings and claimed that he has not had adequate access to his legal documents while at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga.
"This trial has been pending for a really long time," said Judge Dennis Hayashi about the pretrial claims. "I also made it clear that I'm not delaying this any further. ... We need to move on."
Reiser, dressed in his orange prison uniform and appearing antsy at Hayashi's denials, has subpoenaed his children to appear in court.
"I personally don't think it would do the children any good to come here and testify in this trial," Gonzalez said outside the court. "They'd have to relive what they went through as very young children."
Both of the children were at their father's house in the Montclair district when the killing is believed to have taken place. Nina Reiser was last seen alive after dropping off Rory and Niorline at their father's home on Sept. 3, 2006. The couple shared joint custody while they were undergoing divorce proceedings. Rory, who was 6 at the time of the crime, was interviewed by the police following Nina's disappearance.
Reiser's first-degree murder conviction was reduced to second-degree murder after he accepted a plea deal to reveal the location of his wife's body in the Oakland hills.
Rory and Niorline, who were both born and raised in Oakland, have been "traumatized" since then and are struggling because "they no longer have their mother and sadly they don't have their father, either," Gonzalez said.
The children have not had contact with their father since he was convicted, Gonzalez said.