It has been almost 15 months to the day since Hemy Zvi Neuman admittedly shot and killed Russell “Rusty” Sneiderman on November 18, 2010 in the parking lot of Dunwoody Prep daycare center, just after the 36-year-old father had dropped off his 2-year-old son.
Now, 13 months after Neuman was arrested and charged in the murder of Sneiderman, his trial began this Monday at 9 a.m. with jury selection in the DeKalb County Superior Court of Judge Gregory Adams. A jury pool of 300 citizens has been assembled.
Last September, Neuman entered a plea of “not guilty by reason of insanity,” admitting that he had shot Sneiderman four times early that morning of November 18, 2010, but he did not know what he was doing at the time, according to his attorneys.
Jury selection is expected to last until Wednesday, or possibly into Thursday, with the trial expected to last four to five weeks after opening arguments on Feb. 21.
Neuman himself was overhead by The Crier as predicting the trial would be “very long”—maybe months. But one of his defense attorneys, Robert Rubin, said last week, “This judge won’t let that happen.”
That Judge Adams expected proceedings to move along efficiently became evident at a hearing on pretrial motions on Feb. 8, when the judge made it clear he would not allow any improper questioning of potential jurors and would not allow any “opening statement” like presentations to potential jurors this week.
Judge Adams made it clear to both the defense and prosecution attorneys that he would stop any juror questioning that got too close to personal reactions to elements of the case. Judge Adams told the attorneys that if he stops a line of questioning once, he means it is to be stopped with all potential jurors.
Judge Adams also said, “There will be nothing that appears like opening arguments presented during jury selection. Those will be reserved for the first day of trial,“ said Judge Adams, which will be the following week. He indicated he will seek to avoid interruptions with constant objections to the line of questioning by the attorneys on both sides of the case.
It is clear that Judge Adams intends for the trial to move along efficiently.
What happened that day in November 2010 is not in dispute. But his motivation is expected to be hotly debated, and the trial has drawn national attention, with producers from television news magazine shows “20/20” and “Dateline: NBC” planning to cover the proceedings along with local media.
Why? It may turn into allegations of a tawdry love triangle involving Rusty Sneiderman’s wife, Andrea Sneiderman, who was a co-worker of Hemy Neuman at GE Energy in Cobb County and is on the witness lists of both the prosecution and the defense teams.
To date, Andrea Sneiderman has not been a figure involved in any of the pretrial hearings leading up to the murder trial. But Neuman’s estranged wife, Ariela Neuman, and her Dunwoody attorney Esther Panitch have implied there was an extramarital relationship between the victim’s wife and his murderer and those claims became part of a legal separation procedure last year that was successfully won by Neuman’s estranged wife.
Court documents released last fall indicate prosecutors are likely to argue the shooting occurred because of an extramarital affair between the two. Neuman was Andrea Sneiderman’s direct supervisor at GE and they were together on several business trips according to documents made public during the legal separation case on behalf of Ariela Neuman. The families also were friendly within the Dunwoody Jewish community.
Panitch, who has said “I expect this trial to be about their relationship,” has said Ariela Neuman helped Andrea Sneiderman get her job at GE and suspected the two were having an affair even before the shooting.
Prosecutors have said a week before his arrest, Neuman sent Andrea Sneiderman a present from iTunes, the romantic ballad “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars.
Andrea Sneiderman’s attorney, Seth Kirschenbaum, has said it was an unsoliticed gift to the mother of two children. Kirschenbaum said Andrea Sneiderman hopes the prosecution is “prepared to rebut his (Neuman’s) insanity defense.
Although Andrea Sneiderman has not been implicated in her husband’s murder, it is clear she will play a central role as the prosecution attempts to refute Neuman’s plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.
The defense, on the other hand, will apparently call witnesses dating back to Neuman’s childhood to testify during the trial.
The 49-year-old Neuman was born in Mexico, raised in Puerto Rico and educated in Israel. He graduated from Georgia Tech in 1984 and returned to Israel, where he met his wife of 23 years, Ariela.
The defense recently has lost in its attempts in pretrial hearings to have the notes of a psychologist and forensic psychiatrist who examined Neuman in jail kept from the prosecution, claiming they were protected by client/attorney privilege.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Julie Rand Dorney, who is associated with Peachtree Psychiatric Professionals, was ordered by Judge Adams on Feb. 8 to turn over her notes to the court from a meeting and possible sanity evaluation of Neuman last year while he has been in jail awaiting trial.
That meeting took place prior to Neuman changing his plea to guilty by reason of insanity in September. Present at the same time was Dr. Peter Thomas, a psychologist who reportedly was hired by the defense team to conduct a mental evaluation of Neuman. Dr. Thomas’ notes from the meeting with Neuman had been previously ordered turned over to the court for review.
In both cases, Judge Adams reviewed the notes of the doctors and was to turn over to both the prosecution and defense attorneys those notes he felt did not violate client/attorney privilege and could be pertinent to the case.
Assistant District Attorney Don Geary said both Dr. Thomas and Dr. Dorney refuse to talk to the prosecution team. However, Geary said at the hearing Feb. 8 that Dr. Thomas had turned over his notes to the court as Judge Adams had ordered on Jan. 18.
The judge reviewed the notes and forwarded to the prosecution and defense what he ruled was not covered by client-attorney privilege. That is when the prosecution discovered that Dr. Dorney was also involved in the meeting with Neuman.
Neuman was arrested for the crime on January 10, 2011 and has been incarcerated in the DeKalb County Jail ever since. Even if the jury finds Neman guilty by reason of insanity he would be confined for treatment for his sickness while an inmate of the Georgia Department of Corrections.
Sneiderman’s widow, Andrea, was present in court Monday for the first time. Members of her late husband’s family, including his parents, Don and Marilyn Sneiderman, and older brother, Steve, flew in from Ohio and said they plan to be in court for the duration of the trial.