back to article Wife-slaying Linux guru may have 'developmental disability'

Lawyers for prominent Linux developer Hans Reiser, who was convicted of his wife's murder in April, have written to the trial judge this week to argue that their client may be mentally ill. In the brief filing to California Superior Court, Reiser's defense attorney William DuBois wrote: "I declare under penalty of perjury that …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Has anyone noticed.....

    That ever since that particular ep of "Law and Order," where the killer had asperger's, that the incidence of this supposedly very rare disorder has skyrocketed?

    IMO, it sounds more like a case of the "me-too" syndrome. You're not socially maladjusted, you're disabled.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    So there you have ti...

    even the lawyers are convinced that top notch linux developers are starking mad bonkers.

  3. Paul M.



    You mean there are Freetards out there who DON'T have Asperger's?

    I don't believe you. Show us the evidence: starting with living, breathing girlfriends.

  4. caffeine addict


    Aspergers distorts your social interactions with other people. It makes you behave in certain rigid ways. It doesn't compel you to suddenly replace your car seat with a couple of gallons of water.

    There's got to be a good argument that every murderer is insane, but shouting "My client has geek autism!" isn't going to work...

    It may explain why he has apparently made such a balls up of covering his tracks though...

  5. trollboy

    Pretty good defense...

    They could get anyone who's ever used ReiserFS as a character witness to attest to his incompetence

  6. J


    "defendant Hans Reiser, may be mentally incompetent"

    And the lawyer may be grammatically incompetent... I don't know how good a lawyer he is, but his grammar is surely not the greatest. The mistake I hate the most is this one he just committed: separating the subject and the verb with a comma. That really pisses me off. Maybe because I'm not a native speaker of English... (and I don't claim to be great either, but this mistake...)

  7. J

    @Paul M.

    "Show us the evidence: starting with living, breathing girlfriends."

    You forgot "human"...

  8. System Administrator
    Dead Vulture

    @trollboy - you beat me to it ....

    'They could get anyone who's ever used ReiserFS as a character witness to attest to his incompetence'

    I'm really not given to flippant criticism - especially if I don't know the facts.

    I just find it a big coincidence that in the last 12 months I've had to revert to ext3 on three linux boxes because ReiserFS has suddenly gone all "mentally incompetent" on me. It always has done eventually when I've used it for anything useful - like files and stuff.

    After it did that I did wonder as to Reiser's sanity when I found that I managed to complete the tricky and time consuming recovery processes only to find that all the files were labelled as numbers in directories labelled as numbers and so on.

    I realise that there are loads of in depth technical avenues to go down and much discussion to be had about ReiserFS - but being quite busy trying to keep things running (and they have always done so both before and after using the ext2/ext3 FS) my hasty appraisal was that something wasn't quite right somewhere - so I stopped using it and got on with things.

    To find out that the designer of the FS has such a whacky slant on real life - well, it really hasn't come as much of a surprise.

    In fact - I did imagine him laughing James Bond stylee and saying "THE FOOLS - JUST WAIT 'TILL THEY LEAST EXPECT A DISK CRASH MWAHAHAHA" - only part I got wrong was that he wasn't stroking his cat - he was murdering his wife and playing puddles with her car.

    Ain't life funny eh?

    COAT: I left it on the passenger seat ....

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Why always Asperger?

    This is the umpteenth time I've seen a convicted murderer (attempt to) have his scentence reduced because of a (possible) case of Asperger. Having Asperger myself, and knowing several others who do, I would like to say: get lost! In my (ofcourse, completely objective) mind the concepts of Asperger and killer are as far apart as you can get, but the social awkwardness just makes it an easy excuse. Even if mr. Reiser turns out to suffer from Asperger, which is ofcourse possible, it should not be an excuse for him to get out of jail-time. The rule "do not muder people in cold blood" is not a difficult-to-understand-and-fuzzily-defined social rule, it is very simple law that _especially_ somebody with Asperger can understand!

    Apart from hating it that people use the syndrome (faked or real) to get out of their well-deserved punishments, I also hate it that (understandably, but incorrectly) people are starting to associating "Asperger" with "killer".

    Having said all that, I hope mr. Reiser gets out of his punishment -- then, if I ever kill my future wife my official diagnosis will be a real-life get-out-of-jail-free-card!

    (that last bit was intended irony - I practiced)

  10. Bob
    Gates Halo


    Hey, I'm Aspie. Reiser is like me in many ways. But there's one big difference... he killed his wife. I don't believe he's disabled or insane, he's just stupid crazy and very difficult to deal with. It's very sad, he probably would have done better (i.e. not killed his wife) if he'd had better socialization as a child.

    Reiser is clearly NOT the poster child for the Asperger awareness campaign.

    (Bill Gates, because they say he's Aspie too).

  11. Daniel B.

    Is this some kind of 'Developer Syndrome'?

    I've wondered for some time if there is some kind of mental disorder amongst hardcore developers causing extreme behavior: Theo de Raadt and his Linux-bashing, that Kip guy who went on "raging landlord" mode, and Reiser well... even if he *didn't* kill his wife, he did quite a good job on tampering evidence.

    Maybe its like the math guys, to be a true genius, you gotta be crazy (see Fourier, or more recently John Forbes Nash.)

  12. DrXym

    I liked ReiserFS

    I used ReiserFS in one of its earliest commercial incarnations - Mandrake 6 or 7 I think. I quite liked it simply because it didn't make me endure long fs checks that occured with ext2 after so many reboots or after the server crashed. It also impressed me since it was the first non ext2 filesystem I had run on Linux and I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

    Since ext3 however I don't think I would bother with any other journalled file system unless performance was critical. Let's face it ext3 might not be optimal but it WORKS and thats good enough for 99% of people. It's a good default especially when the alternatives are twice the complexity just to wring better performance in some edge cases and often suffer worse performance in more general cases.

    As for Reiser, I agree he's mentally incompetent in the sense that he's clearly useless at getting away with murder. That's too bad for him. Hope he enjoys prison food. Strange as it may be, being a total jerk and/or socially inept is not a valid reason to expect leniency for murdering your wife.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    ....and people thought XFS...

    ...was a killer filesystem.

  14. kain preacher


    Silicon Valley has disproportional amount of aspergers and autism then the rest of US .

    If you have ever dealt with a person that has aspergers, you know it can be a challenge to keep them focused and not go off on a tangent.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Asperger's is not a crime

    Me too, I'm a little disturbed by the attempts to blame criminal behavior on asperger's syndrome. In my observation, aspies are inclined to be meek and avoid violence. I would actually think that a world full of aspies would actually be a safe, fun place to be.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Not conclusive evidence

    User of ReiserFS after getting tired of annoying limitations of the others something like 4 years ago, I must say that it's a great loss for the community if this person goes to jail.

    First because I'm happy to live in a country where, at least I believe, one cannot get convicted for murder just by means of circumstantial evidence. If you neither cannot find the body nor prove what has happened with it in a more or less conclusive way, you cannot accuse this guy of murder just because you're not able to find her wife. Just because this guy is a sociopath does not mean that he has killed someone. Just because you, or the majority of the society does not like a person does not mean that you can be happy that he is out of the streets.

    I'm not saying that he did not did that. I'm saying that the evidence was weak and not conclusive. Yes, what was found in the car is strange, and the guy seems to simply reject to give a rational explanation of how it came there. Yes, he could have murdered Nina. No, you cannot jail a person just because you suspect something. You need to prove it.

    By that same logic, every parent that calls the police when not being able to find his child would be instantly considered a murdered (ooopss, some Portugal village comes to my mind, yes it did happen but took months for the police to start considering that option)

    Second because ReiserFS was, and still is, a very good piece of code that delivered a robust, non intrusive, and hassle free filesystem to the masses. At no cost.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    As another fellow Aspie here, I'm quite offended by the association of Asperger's Syndrome with criminal actions as well. AS may make a person socially awkward, but to my mind (and others as already said on this page), it does NOT excuse an act of violence such as this. Gah. :( I just hope this line of defence fails to hold up in court, for our sakes.

  18. Paul M.


    "In my observation, aspies are inclined to be meek and avoid violence. I would actually think that a world full of aspies would actually be a safe, fun place to be."

    Depends on your idea of fun. Most people do not need a 1,800 page manual to make out with that cute girl. If you know what I mean.

    SELL: commodities

    BUY: rocking chairs, swings, open source software companies

  19. Paul M.
    Thumb Down

    What's a development disability between friends?


    "If you have ever dealt with a person that has aspergers, you know it can be a challenge to keep them focused and not go off on a tangent."

    Aspies are very focussed: you're confusing autism with ADD.

    But hey, she had it coming, right?

  20. System Administrator
    Dead Vulture

    Eureka! I've found it ....

    I've just sussed out what the sequence of events may have been:-

    He had the idea years ago and started off by inventing his own file system to store the plan on. He rigidly adhered to the plan - it was probably a good one. It could have been the crime of the century ....

    But he should have suspected a disk corruption when he read the plan back and it was coming up with stuff like "remove passenger seat", "fill car with water" and "the crime mags and the bloody sleeping back go in the boot". I would have run fsck at least when I read the plan as "leave car in place it will be found easily by police"

    Of course what's really happened is that his hard drive, ReiserFS and all, has totally gone tits up and he's clutching at straws now.

    COAT: The one with numbers on the back where a meaningful name used to be ....

  21. Charles Manning

    Surely all crims are off their trolleys?

    Every crim has some sort of maladjustment or they'd be regular clock-watching tax-paying citizens.

    The trick seems to be that you need some shrink to invent a name for your "condition". Then it is no longer your fault.

    "He's not a thug at heart, he actually quite gentle for someone that suffers from I'llFuckYouUpItis. Please be kind to him: he's the real victim here!"

  22. ffeog

    ReiserFS gets name change... GuiltyFFS

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC, re: not conclusive evidence

    > You need to prove it.

    You left off 'beyond a reasonable doubt.'

    No, IANAL.

  24. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Cloud Cuckoo Lands

    "No, you cannot jail a person just because you suspect something. You need to prove it." .... By Anonymous Coward Posted Thursday 3rd July 2008 21:21 GMT

    In GB [Great Beanland] you may soon be able to enjoy languishing in jail for up to 42 days just because of such third party paranoia. Whenever the system starts paying out exemplary damages though, it will have to do one of those Labour u-turns. And then the dyed in the wool, intellectually challenged fanatics/psychotic stooges would probably even start crying that that would be the Government funding terrorists.

    Wiser heads would ponder that they are instead in grave danger of making them, which is an interesting, although quite obviously perverse socio-political strategy to maintain the status quo, fear drivers for the military industrial complex/PNAC NWO.

    SMART it aint, and SMART IT it aint either and SMARTer IT Players aint Stupid enough to Play such Retard Games which are endlessly recycled to different geographical areas/Time Zones. [Imagine it just like retarring old Roadmaps/early dominating strategies ..... although it is very Third Reich like, is it not?]

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Re: So there you have ti...

    Nothing to do with Linux mate.

    Anyone importing a mail-order-blad' is mad bonkers. This is fully selfinflicted.

    On a side note, it is quite interesting that the mail-order-blad' business is now targeting geeks instead of its traditional audience in the City and Wall Street. Personally I find it quite funny to see a Blad' in full war-paint on an Anastasia International advert on Slashdot (special one with the default stylesheet altered to accommodate the larger than usual picture).

    I suspect Hans stopped seeing the funny side of it. Classic case of "diminished responsibility" where I see one.

    Paris, she is an angel with no sins and no faults compared to what you can get via mail-order from the country where husband abuse is as endemic as alcoholism.

  26. Michelle

    Even if he is sane

    They could sentence him to worse, 20 years of hard labor as a Microsoft Developer. I sentenced myself to 2 months in Microsoft State Penn doing Intern labor. Put me back on the straight and narrow real quick.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Autistic spectrum

    Unfortunately autism is termed the autistic spectrum.

    Probably 99% of the users of this site because they use computers are on the spectrum.

    slightly geeky, your autistic

    Its all bloody silly. An this is from someone with 2 highly autistic children,

  28. Ascylto

    @ Anonymous Coward x

    "This is the umpteenth time I've seen a convicted murderer (attempt to) have his scentence reduced ..."

    Is this where the murderer has to smell things or that the murderer is his/her self smelly?

    Oh, and my nephew is coming to stay with me for a week. He has Asperger's Syndrome. Should I be worried?

  29. Anonymous Coward

    @ Paul M.

    I have a real, live human Wife and two daughters.

    I'm also a Linux consultant and active promoter of F/LOSS so there...ner-ner-ni-ner-ner... :oP

    And no, I don't have aspergers, nor am I a murderer...


  30. Anonymous Coward

    @AC, re: not conclusive evidence

    "I'm saying that the evidence was weak and not conclusive."

    Did you sit through the trial? Did you hear the evidence? No? Then shut up.

  31. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Isn't this the Guiness defence?

    "You're guilty of fraud! Prepare for incarceration!"

    I don't understand that big long word - I have Alzheimer's disease.

    "Oh, sorry, you're free to go. How do you feel?"

    Much better. Pass me The Times will you? I haven't quite finished the crossword.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC, re: not conclusive evidence

    > If you neither cannot find the body nor prove what has happened with it in a more or less conclusive way, you cannot accuse this guy of murder just because you're not able to find her wife.

    Does that mean that, so long as you dissolve all the bodies in acid, you can never get convicted? I seem to remember (anecdotally, but it doesn't even have to be true to make the point) hearing that at one time in Japan murder couldn't be established unless the victim's head had been found. I believe perverse consequences arose when the decapitated body could be found...

  33. Andus McCoatover

    Living with an Asberger girl...

    Yep, really.

    Well, trolley =NE= girl. (can't find pipe character on Finnish keyboard)

    I wonder how much "blood" was in the said sleeping bag. Was it a bit of menstrual flow?? a dab from a scratch/insect bite? ½ a gram? a pint? 4 Litres??

    Never let the the truth get in the way of a good story! US media likes to be prosecutor, trial and jury. TTF they're not (yet) executioner. Oh, forgot. They almost are.

    Louise Woodward springs to mind.

  34. call me scruffy

    @Paul M

    "Most people do not need a 1,800 page manual to make out with that cute girl"

    Ah, that would be the legendary "Fucking" Manual, of RTFM fame.

    So many apergers affected people have commented here, I don't think I can add anything to the note of alarm that mental "defects" are increasingly being used to excuse murderous behaviour.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Evidence that a body existed, at least, please

    "Does that mean that, so long as you dissolve all the bodies in acid, you can never get convicted?"

    Fortunately, this isn't the case - obviously, if the police can prove that the bodies have been dissolved in acid, they can (or at least should be able to) get a conviction.

    The reason this case is so interesting is that there's no body, no evidence to show the existence of a body at any point, no real evidence of violence or serious injury, and no useful eyewitness evidence.

  36. Mike



    Hans Reiser's Honda was found waterlogged with the passenger seat missing and two books about police murder investigations inside. There was also a sleeping bag in the Honda, stained with Nina Reiser's blood.

    Someone with aspergers wouldn't be that stupid, motion dismissed, go directly to jail, do not collect $200

  37. Joe Cooper

    The US Media?

    "Never let the the truth get in the way of a good story! US media likes to be prosecutor, trial and jury. TTF they're not (yet) executioner. Oh, forgot. They almost are."

    Uhhh, I don't think this has really made it to the media beyond sites like this. Probably none of the prosecution or people involved even think of him as famous. We're probably among the 500 people on Earth who know who he is without him knowing us back.

  38. Nexox Enigma

    the FS

    Seems that many people here have the opposite experience to mine with Reiser / EXT3... EXT3 has always lost my meta data on a recovery, which was tedious and difficult, whereas ReiserFS required 2 commands and came back with all of my files and directory structure that weren't directly lost because of bad sectors.

    Plus I've been running it on a dozen or so machines for 4 years and never had it break on me for anything other than a hardware failure. Plus it formats faaar faster and I can't stand to wait around for that sort of thing.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    he's been convicted

    so obviously the jury found reason to consider him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I don't know that they would have considered asbergers or any other condition knowing that he was smart enough to carry this out and hide the body and not quite a good enough criminal to hide/destroy all the evidence....most folks are NOT that adept at covering up a carving up. Tired of folks excuses for their bad behaviour and hope he fries...I don't care how "brilliant" he may or may not have been. the code of human conduct comes before the code of computers.

  40. Solomon Grundy


    Asperger's isn't new, it's been around a long time - but suddenly lots of people "have it": just like all of a sudden bipolar disorder, ADD, SIDS, whatever became popular "things" for fucked up people to have. The general populace is fucked up. But doctors need something to diagnose people with so they can make money and sell drugs.

    Asperger's generally results in poor interactions with other humans (i.e. have an absolutely neutral feeling towards everyone) this makes them poor life partners and they are generally alone and somewhat strange later in their lives. True Asperger's would not result in them killing someone as it's impossible for them to give enough of a shit to do anything about it.

  41. david Silver badge

    Beyond reasonable doubt

    That is a bit of a misunderstanding of the way juries work, courts work, and American juries in American courts work in particular.

    Firstly, remember that all these terms like "beyond reasonable doubt" are technical terms - they mean something different from what they would mean in normal conversation.

    Secondly, courts often give you a choice between two options, neither of which is true. American juries in particular are presented with a choice between killing the defendant and letting him go. If he really is crazy, he may get the death penalty. If he gets off on a crazy plea, it means he is not crazy.

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