by: Mike Petchenik Updated:
DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Attorneys for murder suspect Andrea Sneiderman will not seek a change of venue in her murder trial, and court documents filed Friday indicate they want a judge to exclude a new prosecutorial theory from the trial.
Sneiderman faces charges she conspired with her former boss, Hemy Neuman, to have her husband, Rusty, killed in November 2010.
Friday was the deadline for her attorneys to file pre-trial motions, but they did not ask for a change of venue.
Former prosecutor-turned defense attorney, Ken Hodges, told Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik her team likely didn’t make the decision without doing its homework.
“I’m surprised they didn’t ask for one,” he said. “They had to be convinced (with) what they got as a response that Sneiderman would get a fair trial here.”
Hodges said Sneiderman’s attorneys likely conducted a mock trial, working with a jury consultant to try the case before a panel of DeKalb County citizens.
“There’s no way that J. Tom Morgan and that defense team made that decision without mock trying it, without getting a lot of data and without having Andrea Sneiderman OK it,” Hodges said.
Sneiderman’s attorneys, however, reserve the right to ask for a change of venue during jury selection if they feel they can’t seat an impartial jury from the pool before them.
Attorneys also filed a motion to exclude any reference to a man named Joseph Dell, who prosecutors allege has been romantically involved with Andrea Sneiderman.
“No evidence exists to support an inference of any relationship between defendant and Joseph Dell prior to the death of Rusty Sneiderman,” the motion said.
In a hearing several weeks ago, prosecutors said they were investigating whether Dell was the real reason why they believe Andrea Sneiderman put Neuman up to the murder.
“There is nothing in the discovery to substantiate this claim,” Sneiderman’s attorneys wrote in their motion. “If so, the state needs to withdraw the existing indictment. Until and unless it does so, evidence relating to Joseph Dell is irrelevant to this case.”
Hodges said if the state can’t prove Sneiderman’s relationship with Dell had anything to do with Rusty’s death, a judge shouldn’t allow it in trial. On Nov. 26, Judge Gregory Adams ruled that Sneiderman can have no contact with Dell, because he’s now a potential witness in the case. Defense attorneys describe him as merely a close friend.
“They can’t just say, ‘Your honor, you need to let it in,’” Hodges said. “They’ll have to have compelling reasons, and they’ll have to convince the judge that it is relevant and germane to the issue at hand.”
Veteran defense attorney Steve Sadow, who’s also unrelated to the case, told Petchenik he would have waited until the trial to ask for this exclusion, so that he could show the jury that the prosecution’s theory has evolved from the original indictment.
“The evolving state theory of prosecution is a potential fatal flaw, and I would want to take as much advantage of that as possible,” he said.
Sneiderman’s attorneys also filed a motion asking the judge to dismiss seven of the eight charges she’s facing, leaving only criminal attempt to commit murder on the indictment. Attorneys argued the other charges were “vague” and therefore, should not be considered because they violate Sneiderman’s rights.
“Counts … do not comport with the minimal requirements of due process and do not adequately apprise defendant of the legally required particularities of her alleged misconduct,” attorneys argued.
Sadow said such motions are routine in criminal cases.
“I’m entitled to a perfect indictment in form and in content,” he said of the motion’s purpose. “This indictment doesn’t fit within those rules, and I want it redone so it’s perfect.”