Jury Can Consider Lesser 'Manslaughter' Verdict, Reiser Judge Rules

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The judge in the Hans Reiser murder trial ruled here Tuesday that jurors may consider a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter against the Linux coder, which carries a maximum 11-year term.

Tuesday's ruling gives the jury an alternative to the murder charge, and was opposed by the prosecution.

Jurors will also consider convicting Reiser of first-degree murder, carrying a 25-to-life sentence, and second-degree murder, which carries a 15-to-life term. The former penalty requires premeditation. Voluntary manslaughter generally is a killing in the heat of passion.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberating next week after they hear from a computer forensics specialist who will testify on Monday about what authorities discovered on the 44-year-old defendant's two hard drives. The trial began Nov. 6 and saw more than 60 witnesses.

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And: Hans Reiser Trial: April 8, 2008