Prosecutors, defense mull options after conviction reversed

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Posted: Jun 16, 2015 8:00 AM
Prosecutors, defense mull options after conviction reversed

ATLANTA (AP) — Prosecutors and defense lawyers must now chart a new course through a sea of legal questions after Georgia's highest court reversed the murder conviction of a man accused of killing a father who had just dropped off his son at preschool.

Monday's 6-1 ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court renews a complicated criminal case that prosecutors said stemmed from a deadly love-triangle.

Hemy Neuman was sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole for the November 2010 killing of Russell "Rusty" Sneiderman. A jury in March 2012 found Neuman guilty but mentally ill of malice murder in Sneiderman's death.

Prosecutors "will be prepared to retry the case," Erik Burton, a spokesman for the DeKalb County District Attorney's Office said in a statement.

But it's not clear whether the case would go to trial or end with some type of plea agreement. Neuman's lawyer, Doug Peters, told reporters after the ruling that he's open to pursuing "any fair resolution" of a case.

"There are a set of very complex questions that are ahead for us, for the state and for the court," said J. Scott Key, who represented Neuman in his appeal.

Neuman, who worked with Sneiderman's wife Andrea, donned a fake beard as a disguise and opened fire moments after Russell Sneiderman dropped off his 3-year-old son at Dunwoody Prep daycare outside Atlanta, prosecutors said.

Neuman will remain in custody because a request for bond was denied prior to his trial, Burton said. Neuman's attorney Doug Peters said Neuman will not ask a judge to reconsider bond.

In its opinion, the Supreme Court said the trial judge erred in allowing notes and records of two mental health experts who examined Neuman before trial. The attorney-client privilege is "the oldest of the privileges for confidential communications known to the common law," the opinion states.

At Neuman's trial, both the prosecution and the defense contended Neuman and Sneiderman's wife were having an affair. Andrea Sneiderman has repeatedly denied it.

Prosecutors suggested during Neuman's trial that Andrea Sneiderman was a co-conspirator, but they said Neuman was ultimately driven to kill Rusty Sneiderman because Neuman wanted Sneiderman's wife and his money. Neuman's defense attorneys said their client was mentally ill and that Andrea Sneiderman manipulated him into killing her husband.

Andrea Sneiderman was convicted of perjury and making false statements during the investigation of her husband's death, and was released from prison in June 2014.

Neuman's attorneys on Monday suggested that her convictions will be an issue during the retrial. Key called Andrea Sneiderman "probably the most important witness" of the trial.

Paul Milich, a professor at Georgia State University's College of Law, said the high court's decision will prevent prosecutors from using the experts' conclusions again. He also expects prosecutors to zero in on Neuman's insanity defense and avoid problems that cropped up during the first trial, including a "difficult witness" in Andrea Sneiderman.

"Whenever you retry a case, you have the advantage of learning from the lessons of the first trial," Milich said.

Justice Harold Melton focused his dissent on a form that Neuman signed in jail before meeting with both mental health experts. The form stated their examination of him was "not confidential" and that anything discussed may be included in reports or disclosed in court, according to Melton's dissent.