Update: Andrea Sneiderman is seeking a new trial in her 2013 conviction for perjury and hindering the investigation into the slaying of her husband, ajc.com reports.
Sneiderman, released from prison in June, seeks the new trial to clear her name, the website reported. Exoneration is “very important” to Sneiderman, her former attorney, J. Tom Morgan, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last year.
Earlier article from Reporter Newspapers:
The Georgia Supreme Court heard arguments Jan. 20 on whether convicted murder Hemy Neuman should be granted a new trial based on defense claims the conviction was secured through improper testimony.
At the heart of the decision will be whether the records of consultants – in this case, mental health experts – fall within the scope of the attorney-client privilege if they are working as agents for the defense attorney.
Neuman was convicted in the 2010 shooting death of Russell Sneiderman, 36, after the father of two had dropped off his 3-year-old son at a Dunwoody day care center. Prosecutors described the shooting as a fatal step in an ill-fated love affair Neuman had been having with Sneiderman’s wife, Andrea.
Neuman pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Two medical experts testified on his behalf, both concluding Neuman was unable to distinguish right from wrong at the time of the shooting. The state produced two medical experts who concluded the contrary, and that the symptoms and behaviors he reported were inconsistent with mental illness.
In arguments before the Supreme Court, Neuman’s lawyer, J. Scott Key, said the trial court violated attorney-client privilege by allowing prosecutors to subpoena files from two mental health consultants, Dr. Peter Thomas and Dr. Julie Rand Dorney, who were hired by the defense to interview Neuman in the early stages of the case. The subpoenas were granted, Key said, in spite of the fact the defense had no intention of calling either consultant as a witness in the trial
Key said the consultants were used purely in the exploratory process for the defense to evaluate how it would present its case. The consultants were acting as agents of the defense attorney and their files should fall within the statute of attorney-client privilege, he said.
Key charged prosecutors used the information from the first consultants to contrast it from that later presented by medical experts who testified for the defense in court.
The argument appeared to have struck a chord with the court. Justices repeatedly asked Anna Cross, representing the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, how a defense attorney can hope to build a case if he or she risks uncovering, then sharing, damaging evidence that could later be used against his client.
Cross countered that the consultants were not serving as strict agents for the defense. If they had been hired to help interpret answers to the attorney’s questions, that would be one thing, she said, but the attorney wasn’t even present for the interviews.
Further, she said, Neuman had signed a waiver for the interviews acknowledging that they were not private.
Cross also dismissed Key’s charges that prosecutors secured Neuman’s conviction based on perjured testimony of Andrea Sneiderman – who claimed there had been no affair with Neuman. The state’s case, she said, weighed more heavily on phone records, a rental car receipt, eyewitness testimony and physical evidence.
“I believe the state made every effort to encourage [Andrea Sneiderman] to be truthful,” Cross said.
Following the hearing, Cross referred all questions to the DeKalb County DA’s office.
Key, on the other hand, told reporters he was encouraged, saying he thinks the justices understand how serious the issue of attorney-client privilege is.