Neuman’s Murder Conviction Toppled

Neuman’s Murder Conviction Toppled

Killer Hemy Neuman had his murder conviction overturned on a 6-1 ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court on Monday, June 15.

Andrea Sneiderman, who did not testify during her perjury trial, pleads for leniency before her sentencing in August 2013.
Andrea Sneiderman, who did not testify during her perjury trial, pleads for leniency before her sentencing in August 2013.

Neuman, who admitted planning and executing the shooting death of fellow Jewish community member Rusty Sneiderman outside a Dunwoody preschool in November 2010, has been serving a life sentence without possibility of parole since being found guilty of malice murder but mentally ill in DeKalb County Superior Court on March 15, 2012.

He now faces a retrial of the murder case. A spokesman for the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office confirmed that the state will retry Neuman and that he will remain behind bars unless he persuades a judge to reverse a 2011 ruling denying him bond.

Neuman claimed that he had an affair with Sneiderman’s wife, Andrea, who worked for him at GE Energy in East Cobb, and that delusions led him to believe he had to kill Rusty Sneiderman for the good of the Sneiderman children.

The murder case led Neuman’s wife, Reli, to divorce him, and Rusty Sneiderman’s parents and other relatives declared their belief that Andrea Sneiderman had a role in her husband’s death.

She was charged in 2013 with 13 counts related to obstructing the murder investigation and lying at Neuman’s trial, although DeKalb prosecutors dropped murder charges against her. A jury convicted her in August 2013 of perjury and other charges, for which she served 10 months in prison of a five-year sentence.

Her trial was packed with connections to the Jewish community, such as references in email messages to the Marcus Jewish Community Center and Yom Kippur; a mention that the Sneidermans met at Hillel at Indiana University; discussions about sitting shiva with witnesses Melanie White, a real estate agent, and Donald Sneiderman, Rusty’s father; and the testimony of Chabad of North Fulton Rabbi Hirshy Minkowicz for the defense.

Although her record will be cleared after she completes parole in 2017 if she commits no other crimes because she was convicted as a first-time offender, she appealed for a new trial. Her attorneys argued in part that her testimony didn’t prevent Neuman’s conviction and so shouldn’t be judged as criminal, but she lost the appeal in Superior Court in February.

Neuman argued before the Supreme Court on Jan. 20 that his conviction should be overturned in part because the prosecution used Sneiderman’s perjured testimony against him, but the court refused to address that issue.

Instead, in an opinion written by Justice Carol Hunstein, the majority focused on attorney-client privilege.

In preparing his insanity defense, Neuman’s lawyers had forensic psychiatrist Julie Rand Dorney and psychologist Peter Thomas meet with the killer in jail before his trial. They were working for the defense and were never intended to appear in court as expert witnesses.

But the prosecution subpoenaed the notes and other work materials the two mental health experts submitted to the defense team, which then felt it necessary to call them as witnesses to avoid the damaging appearance of the prosecution using two defense witnesses as rebuttal witnesses.

Nonetheless, the Supreme Court justices found, the two doctors in effect became prosecution witnesses who undermined the defense’s insanity claim.

The prosecution argued that any extension of attorney-client privilege to the doctors was waived when the defense used an insanity plea. But six of the seven justices disagreed.

“We join numerous other jurisdictions in holding that the attorney-client privilege applies to confidential communications, related to the matters on which legal advice is being sought, between the attorneys, their agents, or their client, and an expert engaged by the attorney to aid in the client’s representation; the privilege is not waived if the expert will neither serve as a witness at trial nor provide any basis for the formulation of other experts’ trial testimony,” Hunstein wrote.

The court also found that the evidence from the two doctors hurt Neuman. Prosecutors used that evidence to counter testimony from defense experts and quoted from Thomas’ notes in closing arguments to support the idea that Neuman was faking mental illness. The jury even asked to see those notes during deliberations.

Justice Harold Melton disagreed with the ruling on the basis of a disclosure form Neuman signed one time when he met with the two doctors together in jail.

The form states in part: “The examination is not confidential, nor is it for the purpose of treatment. Anything we discuss in the examination may be included in the written report or may be disclosed in court. Therefore, nothing is off the record and anything you say or do during the evaluation is not a secret.”

The majority decided that because it was a boilerplate form Dorney used and because it specified that the meeting resulted from a referral from Neuman trial attorney Robert Rubin, it did not waive attorney-client privilege. The court also decided that the form didn’t apply to earlier sessions at the jail.

Melton argued that the form should be taken at face value. Its declarations that anything discussed could be used in court and would not be confidential, as well as the fact that the previous examinations were discussed during that meeting, should mean that attorney-client privilege did not apply.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported reaching Rubin, who did not represent Neuman in the appeal, on vacation in Israel, where he said about the ruling: “That’s unbelievable.”

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