Is there really such a thing as a "geek defense"?

By Mark O’Neill

hansreiser A computer programmer is on trial accused of murdering his wife and the evidence against him is damning.   So his lawyer has uniquely resorted to what many have called "the geek defense".

So what is some of the evidence against computer programmer Hans Reiser that his lawyer dismisses as weird geek behavior?

  • He purchased two books on murder
  • He took no part in the search for his missing wife
  • He had removed the battery from his cell phone
  • The floor of his car was soaking wet as if it had just been cleaned
  • He had removed the front passenger seat of his car

So this has intrigued me to ask the geek readers of this blog – are the above actions typical of a geek?   Do you remove the battery from your cell phone on a regular basis?    Would you consider it normal for a geek to remove the front passenger seat from the car?   If you were a juror in the case, would you accept the "geek defense"?

* NOTE : the above Washington Post link requires free login to view the news article.  If you don’t have an account and you don’t want to register, you can bypass the login screen using BugMeNot.

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10 Responses to Is there really such a thing as a "geek defense"?

  1. umm no, not geeky at all.

    If anything a geek would NOT take the battery out of his phone!

    There's nothing geeky, or often sane about removing the passenger seat of your car.

    I could understand if he were anti-social, secluded, basement-dwelling etc. etc. That would be a more viable 'geek defense'.

  2. It doesn't sound like they have that much evidence really. Not even a body… Just a clean car, and some strange habits. Mind you, you can't trust anything you read in the papers. I'll try not to have an opinion. :D

  3. Definitely Not Geek Behavior. But since they are playing the geek card, they should call in some of his WoW friends to testify.

    Can you send out a subpoena a person from WoW?

  4. Actually it makes perfect sense. The guy made a false passenger out of ballistics gel so he could drive in the carpool lane, but he left it parked at a convenience store for too long in the sun and it melted. He removed the now ruined seat in hopes that he could get it cleaned before his Wife found out. Thats also why he cleaned the floor panel. He removed the battery from his, potentially ruined by melted ballistics gel, phone so it could dry out without shorting out. Seriously are you going to tell me this has never happened to you? And you call yourselves geeks?

    • And he was busy doing then instead of helping looking for his wife. After all, the authorities had that covered, but he HAD to get the ballistics gel out of the seat and floorboard.

  5. In the 1940s, members of MIT's DKE fraternity planted explosive cord in Harvard Stadium that would have spelled out "MIT" when detonated.

    The grounds crew found the wires and foiled the hack before it could go off.

    In one version of the story told at MIT, a DKE member was arrested and taken before the court. The evidence against him was that he had wire and batteries in his pockets. "But your honour," said his defence lawyer in a courtroom packed full of sympathetic classmates, "all MIT students carry batteries and wire in their pockets." All the students in the courtroom proceeded to pull wire and batteries out of their pockets and the suspect was set free.

    [I heard this story in 1979. I have never come across any documentation of anyone actually being charged for the prank.]

  6. Geek behaviour? I'm offended. Gonna lay it out here not to prove that he was innocent or guilty but to prove that this behaviour can be done by anyone not just a geek

    * He purchased two books on murder.

    What constitutes a book on murder? Was it how to murder or just novels on murder? If he was truly a geek, he would not have bought books, he would have looked it up on the net. Actually, you don't even need to be a geek to know that.

    * He took no part in the search for his missing wife

    He could have been distraught at the death of his wife, and was therefore unable to assist in the search.

    * He had removed the battery from his cell phone

    He could have done this to stop people phoning him about the death of his wife, which would obviously have made the pain worse. I would also not want to talk to anyone in particular for a while if this happened to me.

    * The floor of his car was soaking wet as if it had just been cleaned

    Maybe it had just been cleaned. It is not uncommon for people in this situation to throw up at the thought of something like this happening. He probably threw up in his car, and wanted to clean it up. Or the wetness was his tears.

    * He had removed the front passenger seat of his car

    How is this geek behaviour? unless he wanted to replace it with a computer?

  7. Books on murder, okay, sure. I'm pretty sure that there's a reasonable answer for that; if there isn't, I might be in big trouble.

    Not taking part in the search? Okay. I'm sure there's lots of people with missing family members who didn't help. Not really a "geek" behaviour, though, unless he was playing video games.

    I remove the battery from my cellphone all the time, but, then, I normally do it to see how it works.

    The last time I cleaned my car was when I sold it to get a new one, and let me tell you, it was not wet. Don't think that's normal though.

    I would do it if I could, because that would be awesome.