In 2008, Hans Reiser was convicted of killing his wife in a criminal court. As a result, he is now in prison and serving 15 years to life.
After the criminal conviction, a wrongful death lawsuit was brought against Hans Reiser on behalf of his two children. This week, a jury ruled in favor of the children and ordered Reiser to pay $60 million.
Not only has Reiser lost his freedom, he will likely lose all his money too, reports NBC.
It's not uncommon in a criminal homicide for the victims to also sue for wrongful death. Generally, someone convicted of a crime will lose his or her freedom as punishment. However, the criminal court will usually not award monetary payment to those injured by the crime.
Instead, the victims will usually have to bring a lawsuit in civil court to recover money. A wrongful death lawsuit will typically precede much like any other personal injury lawsuit, and the plaintiff will have to prove that the perpetrator acted carelessly or maliciously in causing injury.
Of course, if the perpetrator is already convicted in a criminal court, winning a civil trial will be much easier. That's because the criminal courts require a higher standard of proof to convict someone -- beyond a reasonable doubt. So if a person is convicted criminally, that person will almost certainly be civilly liable for the act as well.
Even if someone is acquitted on the criminal charge, a plaintiff can still sue that person in civil court. That's because while the prosecutors could not meet the high burden of proof in a criminal court, a plaintiffs' attorney could meet the lower burden (usually, preponderance of evidence standard) in a civil court.
In Hans Reiser's wrongful death lawsuit, it was probably a given he would lose. The only remaining question was how much he would have to pay.
- Hans Reiser must pay kids $60 million (San Francisco Chronicle)
- Wife killer, programmer Hans Reiser must pay kids $60M (CNET)
- Jury awards Hans Reiser's children $60 million in damages (Oakland Tribune)
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