ATLANTA — The defense for a man convicted in a killing outside an Atlanta area preschool was undercut by the testimony of a woman who was later found to be lying, and his conviction should be thrown out, the man's lawyer argues in an appeal.
The Georgia Supreme Court is set to hear arguments Tuesday in the appeal by Hemy Neuman. A jury in March 2012 found Neuman guilty but mentally ill in the November 2010 killing of Russell "Rusty" Sneiderman. Neuman worked with Sneiderman's wife, Andrea, and was her supervisor.
Neuman is serving a life prison sentence of life without possibility of parole.
At Neuman's trial, both the prosecution and the defense contended Neuman and Andrea Sneiderman were romantically involved. Andrea Sneiderman has repeatedly denied any affair.
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 took advantage of that weakness to manipulate him into killing her husband.
More than four months after the end of Neuman's trial, prosecutors indicted Andrea Sneiderman on charges including murder, insurance fraud and perjury. About a year later on the eve of her trial, they dropped the murder charges. Jurors in August 2013 found that she lied to investigators trying to solve her husband's killing and lied during Neuman's trial, and they convicted her on charges including perjury and giving false statements.
Neuman's trial lawyers used his mental health as his only defense, lawyer J. Scott Key argued in an appeal of Neuman's conviction.
"That defense relied upon Mr. Neuman's affair with Andrea Sneiderman as the catalyst for his descent into psychosis," Key wrote. She was a key witness for the prosecution and her denial of the affair and portrayal of Neuman as a stalker "cut straight to the heart of his sole defense," Key added.
DeKalb County prosecutors rejected those arguments in their response to Neuman's appeal, arguing that Andrea Sneiderman's testimony was not essential to his conviction.
A verdict must be thrown out because of perjury "only when the judgment could not have been obtained without the perjured evidence and the perjurer has been duly convicted," prosecutors argued, adding that there was plenty other evidence to convict Neuman.
Key said the trial court also committed other errors when it:
— allowed the state to subpoena the records of two mental health professionals who had visited Neuman as defense consultants but who were not set to be called as trial witnesses;
— declined to allow defense attorneys to further question a witness after Andrea Sneiderman hugged her in the courtroom following testimony that was damaging to Sneiderman but later, out of the jury's view, issued a veiled threat to the woman;
— didn't allow the defense to reference the records of a family therapist Neuman and his wife had seen that included notations that Neuman was suicidal and suffering from a mood disorder.