Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen does not use the word "closure." That would wrongly imply an evening of the scales, an erasing of the past.

At a news conference Wednesday on the Jeanine Harms case, Rosen nevertheless tried to draw as careful an exclamation point as he could on a case that has frustrated law enforcement for a decade.

The DA's verdict was no surprise. He said Harms was murdered by Maurice Nasmeh, who was himself killed by Harms' brother in January. A trail of circumstantial evidence, and 27 crucial rug fibers, linked him to the crime.

You can question that judgment. A Nasmeh defense would seek to discredit the fiber evidence. And you can always say it's convenient to blame the dead guy. He isn't around to complain.

The news conference was still a remarkable event in the young administration of the 44-year-old DA, who stood on a platform flanked by seven cops and prosecutors.

In a different place, with a different prosecutor, the temptation might have been to shrug things off after Nasmeh's death. After all, the chief suspect is dead.

So I asked Rosen directly: Why put so much work into this? Why summon the media to hand out a report on a case that already belongs to the past?

Rosen gave two answers. The first dealt with transparency. "If we had simply said the investigation is over, there would always be questions," he said. "I think it would be a disservice to the public."


The second dealt with Jeanine Harms' family. "If you're going to tell family and friends that we're stopping the investigation, you really should do everything you can," the DA said. "The pain may dull, but it never goes away."

In Rosen's style, the verdict stretched beyond a few paragraphs. He gave each reporter an eight-page summation of the case and a 48-page summary of the $410,000 fiber evidence report.

The news was twofold: The fiber evidence seems firmer and more exhaustive now -- though maybe not unassailable. Fibers matching those from Harms' Persian rug and latch-hook rug were found in the cargo area of Nasmeh's Jeep Grand Cherokee.

"It is almost inconceivable that a collection of such distinctive fibers could have accumulated by mere random chance," said Skip Palenik, a researcher for Microtrace, the Illinois forensic lab that tested the fibers.

Then there was this addition: The DA said seven separate victims and witnesses had reported Nasmeh's violence or threats toward women.

In one 1994 case, he reportedly became so upset with a former female roommate that he forced her into a corner, grabbed her by the neck and squeezed.

In Rosen's hands, even the beer cans betrayed a man trying to hide his traces. Why would Nasmeh take all six Heineken cans he and Harms had bought that night -- both empties and full?

Like I say, you can question all this. You can certainly question the speed of the DA's office itself, which received the preliminary Microtrace report in April 2010.

Yet a quiet vindication was going on Wednesday. Vindication for criminalist Mark Moriyama, whose original assessment of the fibers was backed up by Microtrace.

Vindication -- of a sort -- for the Los Gatos police, who found the case intensely difficult. And maybe a relief for Jeanine Harms' family.

No, it's not closure, because closure doesn't really exist. Are there still questions? Yes. But for those trying to sort out who committed this crime, the Rosen report takes us a long way forward.

Contact Scott Herhold at or 408-275-0917.