Hans Reiser is a geek who helped develop an early journalling file system for the Linux operating system. In 1999 he ordered a Russian mail-order bride. A Russian-educated obstetrician and gynecologist, she began divorce proceedings against him in 2004. Their relationship deteriorated and, claiming physical abuse, she obtained restraining orders against him. In 2006, Nina Reiser disappeared. During forensic investigation, police found blood spatter in Hans Reiser’s house and car, one of the front seats of his car had been removed, neighbours said they’d seen him the day of the disappearance hosing down his car, and he bought several books on homicide and forensics in the days following the disappearance. There was tons of stuff like this. Despite this, among a certain set of anally retentive, emotionally retarded geeks, Reiser’s “Not Guilty” defence and plea became something of a cause célèbre. His trial lawyers’ main strategy seemed to be to evoke reasonable doubt and to paint his missing wife as a bit of a slapper, possibly a criminal or an associate of mobbed-up criminals, and Reiser as a misunderstood but lovable geek whose creepy and endless self-aggrandisement and lack of affect was not due to incipient sociopathy but simply an affectation common among a certain subgroup. Among basically everyone except this subgroup (and Wikipedia rules lawyers), the Guilty verdict seemed certain. A jury agreed and found him guilty of murder last week.

Despite this confirmation of self-evident truth, I was impressed to find a chapter of the Flat Earth Society alive and well and posting in the “Talk” page for Hans Reiser on Wikipedia. It’s the massive online role playing game-disguised-as-encyclopedia at its best. There’s the pure Reiser Defenders there, arguing for several years that he was innocent and throwing out all manner of conspiracy theories as to why he was being set up by the “neurotypicals” and non-self-diagnosed Assburgers of the world. Your basic narcissistic autodidact delusionals. The comments section of the SFGate liveblog entries about the trial is a hotbed of these kooks.

And then there was the alliance or collaboration with the Wikipedia Rules Lawyers, who excel in splitting hairs. There is, for instance, an enlightening debate on the difference between “convicted murderer” and “proven murderer”. The former was acceptable to the OCD sufferers, the latter, apparently, was not (even after the decision of a jury).

One would think that Reiser’s post-conviction plea bargain deal in which he led police to the body dump site where they retrieved a decomposed corpse that had been buried in a ravine within a bag would dissuade his defenders. However, I then read someone on the Talk page arguing that because had not been “proven” that the human corpse located by Reiser was the body of Nina Reiser, it was not absolutely certain that he had murdered her. Later, using dental records, police confirmed that it was her body. I am waiting to see how the Geek Defenders weasel their way past that one.

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