Hayward -- A jury on Tuesday awarded $60 million to the two children of Hans Reiser in a wrongful-death suit that they filed after he was convicted of murdering their mother.
Rory Reiser, 12, and his 11-year-old sister, Niorline, were awarded $25 million apiece for emotional damage that they suffered after the death of Nina Reiser in 2006. They will also share $10 million in punitive damages. Hans Reiser was convicted of murdering his wife in 2008.
The jury's award was more than the $25 million their attorney, Arturo Gonzalez, had sought.
"We felt that it was within reason. It could have been a lot higher," said William Smith of Livermore, the jury foreman.¿¿ "When we looked at the facts and the evidence, we wanted to make darn sure that the children were taken care of, that they would have the psychological help that they need for the rest of their life."
The children were not present at the trial; they are living in St. Petersburg, Russia, with their maternal grandmother, Irina Sharanova, who brought the suit on behalf of the children.
"The family is very grateful and appreciative" of the ruling, Gonzalez said.
"They got Nina back, and what they got today was confirmation from people in this community is what a wonderful person Nina was," he said.
After four hours of deliberations, jurors decided against Reiser in part because of what they believed to be his overall attitude toward women.
Reiser, who acted as his own attorney during the weeklong trial, said numerous times that he considered himself an absentee father because he frequently traveled between the U.S. and Russia for his job as a computer programmer.
Jurors also were turned off by Reiser's statements that he wanted more children no matter what. "Mr. Reiser said that he wanted a large family of five children. If he was not going to get it from Nina, he was going to get it from other women one way or another," Smith said. "The women on our jury quite frankly felt like 'screw you.'"
The panel members said they felt compassion toward the slain mother after seeing pictures of a smiling Nina Reiser playing with her two children, who were 5 and 6 at the time of her murder.
"It ... was a good snapshot into what the family was like," Smith said. "That certainly pulled all of our hearts that she really loved her children, and Mr. Reiser was not the person that was involved in that."
Reiser spent much of the trial claiming that Nina was a psychopath who was jealous of the attention their children received and refused to be motherly toward them.
He was warned multiple times throughout the trial by Judge Dennis Hayashi to stop attempting to justify his crime by claiming that his wife had Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a mental disorder where parents fake illnesses in their children for attention, or other psychological disorders, because it related to the original criminal trial.
Hayashi wanted to move the civil trial along since it was originally filed in 2008, shortly after Reiser was convicted.
Reiser was found guilty of first-degree murder in April 2008 and sentenced to 25 years-to-life. But his sentence was reduced to second-degree murder and 15 years-to-life after he confessed to choking Nina to death on Sept. 3, 2006 at his Montclair district home where their children were present and then agreed to show authorities where he hid her body in the Oakland hills.
He is currently serving his sentence at Pleasant Valley State Prison where he said he has been unable to work because of health issues.
Reiser called himself an "indigent prisoner" and unable to pay the ruling.
The children will now have the chance to seize any assets Reiser might have, including the software development company that he ran before his arrest, and any intellectual property that he develops while in prison, Gonzalez said.