by: Jodie Fleischer Updated:
DUNWOODY, Ga. - Attorneys for Dunwoody day care widow Andrea Sneiderman say they are not just looking for a not guilty verdict -- they want to clear her name.
Two members of Sneiderman’s defense team agreed to answer questions about a Channel 2 Action News investigation which revealed what may have been missteps by Dunwoody police during the case.
Detectives did not consider Sneiderman a suspect in her husband's murder, for which a grand jury has now indicted her. That may have cost prosecutors evidence in the case. But Sneiderman's attorneys said they, too, want all of the evidence they can get, because it could help prove her innocence.
"I firmly believe the more evidence, the more facts about this case that come forward, the more we're going to be able to show that Andrea is, in fact, not guilty," said John Petrey, adding that he doesn't want her presented as someone who's getting off on a technicality.
"Many times, my job is to show weaknesses in the state's case because I don't have a bona fide defense. That ain't true in this case," said Petrey.
They want her acquitted in court, and in the court of public opinion.
"We're not just looking for an acquittal in the case, we're looking for a complete exoneration because she is, in fact, innocent," said attorney Doug Chalmers.
Chalmers said Sneiderman has plenty of supporters who have stood by her for the nearly two years since her husband’s death -- even now that she's charged with his murder.
"Out of respect for the legal process, they have remained silent so far, but she has an extraordinary network of very good friends and family members who are absolutely convinced of her innocence and are anxious to speak out at the right time," said Chalmers.
Chalmers said that time will likely come during a hearing next week. That's when Sneiderman will ask a judge to let her out of jail on bond while awaiting trial.
Her boss at the time, Hemy Neuman, has been convicted in her husband's death. Her attorneys said public perception during Neuman's murder trial was based on prosecutors and defense attorneys grilling her.
"None of the many, many objections that would normally be made on behalf of someone could be made in that forum. So people got a very jaundiced view of who Andrea Sneiderman was," said Petrey.
Sneiderman’s attorneys would not comment on the job Dunwoody police did, because they still haven't received all of the case information and evidence from prosecutors. But with regard to a Channel 2 Action News investigation which revealed that detectives did not preserve hundreds of texts between Andrea and her boss before the murder, Petrey said: "Our defense is, the state's case is simply based on an absolutely incorrect assumption of guilt, and it's not based on evidence. The evidence is, she's not guilty, she's innocent. We're planning a very aggressive defense in this case that is not based on speculation or 'what might this evidence show if we had it.’"
Sneiderman is accused of helping Hemy Neuman murder her husband, Rusty Sneiderman, in November 2010. Rusty was shot and killed in the parking lot of the Dunwoody Prep preschool after dropping off his son.
Neuman was Andrea's boss at GE Energy, and during his trial, multiple witnesses alleged an affair between the two.
"It almost seemed like we were bothering her to try to talk to her," Dunwoody police Chief Billy Grogan told investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer, referring to Andrea's level of cooperation during the investigation into her husband's murder.
Her attorneys said her demeanor shouldn't be misinterpreted -- or even matter.
"A traumatic event, whether it's physically traumatic or psychologically traumatic or both, every single person reacts differently," said Petrey.
Sneiderman’s parents refused to allow police to search her home on the night of the murder. They were grieving and asked police to come back in the morning.
"There's no 'right way' for the widow of a murdered man to respond. There's no kit that tells you, 'Here's how you're supposed to do it,'" said Petrey, who also spent decades as a prosecutor.
He says the case appears to be largely based on circumstantial evidence, which doesn't necessarily make it weak, but in this case, he says it is.
"I've gotten many convictions when I was a prosecutor on purely circumstantial evidence. The circumstantial evidence in this case, however, is not going to establish that she's guilty."
DeKalb District Attorney Robert James has repeatedly said he would not have taken the case to a grand jury unless he felt the evidence was strong enough to win a conviction.
The defense team said it's still considering whether to request the trial be moved out of the Atlanta area because of all of the pretrial publicity.