While reading about the trial of Hans Reiser I came across this peculiar sentence:

On Monday, July 7, 2008, Reiser led police to Nina's shallow grave in the Oakland Hills. Reiser's attorney, William Du Bois, who was handcuffed to Reiser and accompanied by a heavy police guard to the site, said that the remains were found buried on the side of a hill […]

(Originally reported by SFGate)

I find this very strange for multiple reasons:

  • The attorney is not legally responsible for the defendant's safety or security.
  • The attorney is free to leave at any time.
  • The attorney is not required to be armed and can not be expected to defend himself from a violent defendant
  • …nor can he be expected to physically restrain the defendant if necessary.
  • If the heavy police guard has to intervene, having an innocent civilian chained to the target must make their job much more difficult in case the defendant has to be subdued by force.

Why and when would this be standard practice, and who would order that? Is it something that the Judge would order, or would the attorney himself have to suggest it?

† Unfortunately we can not ask him personally since, while researching the question, I found that he recently passed away.


3 Answers 3


My impression, and the plausible explanation in the absence of the actual facts, is that this was something that the attorney agreed to, in order to allow a skittish client to reveal information pursuant to a favorable plea agreement.

The police probably insisted that the client be handcuffed to someone while doing this to prevent the client from fleeing. The attorney probably offered to do the job instead of a police officer, to be able to provide advice to his client and keep his client calm enough to do it, which might not have happened (sacrificing the favorable plea deal that the attorney negotiated) if someone else were in that role.

  • 1
    This makes a lot of sense, judging from the type of crime and his client's physique the attorney probably didn't think it was a big deal.
    – pipe
    Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 14:23
  • In this case, the advice probably consisted of repeatedly saying, "Do not answer that question!"
    – EvilSnack
    Commented Mar 16 at 15:19

Preliminary answer:

According to the East Bay Times...

Despite the presence of officers, Du Bois said he was handcuffed to his client.

“I guess they were afraid he would run,” he said.

  • I think that still leaves me with the same questions: Why not handcuff him to one of the "half-dozen heavily armed Oakland police SWAT officers"? "he was handcuffed to his client" is a very passive expression - who suggested it or even allowed it? But it's perhaps another piece of the puzzle.
    – pipe
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 12:19
  • 9
    Without anything else to go on, I suspect that this was a decision made by the police to prevent unlawful escape. Maybe so Reiser could consult with his attorney in private without being 'cuffed to an officer. Maybe...
    – user35069
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 12:19

The attorney is not legally responsible for the defendant's safety or security.

It is entirely possible, and not uncommon, for a person to accept (legal) responsibility for another person, as a condition for bail (surety).

Also, it is common for bail to include conduct conditions, which commonly can include things like staying in the company of a particular person. These conditions are not binding on the "other person", but need the consent of the "other person", because without consent, the bailed person is unable to comply.

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