The Dunwoody Prep slaying started as a “whodunit.” Now it turns to a “why’d he do it?”
Hemy Neuman will plead not guilty by reason of insanity, according to motions filed by his attorneys in DeKalb County Superior Court.
The insanity plea confirms that Neuman shot and killed Rusty Sneiderman outside the Dunwoody preschool in November 2010.
“Essentially, it admits he did the shooting on Nov. 18,” said Robert Rubin, one of Neuman’s attorneys, “but we believe and will put forth in court evidence that he did not know that what he did was wrong at the time he did it and that’s why we believe he was legally insane at the time.”
According to Georgia law, a person must be unable to tell the difference between right and wrong at the time a crime was committed in order to be found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Anne Emanuel, a law professor at Georgia State University, said the insanity test requires “extreme mental illness.”
“It’s a very high test in most jurisdictions,” Emanuel said. “You have to establish that you’re incapable of telling right from wrong. It really assumes a delusional state.”
Emanuel said successful insanity pleas are very uncommon.
“I think public perception is skewed. When an insanity plea is successful it gets a lot of attention,” she said.
Juries more commonly will rule that a defendant is guilty but mentally ill – meaning that after being sentenced, he or she will be sent to a facility for treatment.
“But if they get better, they will be sent to a prison to serve the rest of their sentence,” Emanuel said.
Neuman’s plea means that the state is no longer tasked with proving that he killed Sneiderman. Defense lawyers must now convince the jury that Neuman was in fact insane.
“It requires us to bring forth evidence of his insanity. But the burden is still on the prosecution to prove Mr. Neuman was still sane beyond a reasonable doubt,” Rubin said.
Attempts to reach the DeKalb County district attorney were unsuccessful at press time.
Neuman’s trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 17. Rubin said his firm will not ask for a continuance.
“We’re preparing every day and will be prepared for trial on the 17th,” Rubin said. “We will put on experts, psychiatrists and psychologists, to prove that Mr. Neuman was insane at the time.”
Neuman is charged with the murder of Rusty Sneiderman. Prosecutors and police say Neuman shot Sneiderman on Nov. 18 outside Dunwoody Prep, a preschool where Sneiderman had just dropped off his young son.
Police say vehicle rental records led them to Neuman. Neuman rented a silver Kia Sedona van shortly before the shooting. The van was similar to the one spotted on security videos taken in or near the parking lot of Dunwoody Prep shortly after the shooting.
After searching the Kia, police found a synthetic hair similar to ones used in a fake beard, and determined a local costume shop sold a similar beard, according to witnesses.
During subsequent searches of Neuman’s iPhone, iPad and emails, authorities determined that there had been continuous communication between Neuman and the victim’s wife, Andrea Sneiderman, before and after the shooting, according to testimony.
Neuman’s wife, Ariela Neuman, has maintained that her husband was having an affair with Andrea Sneiderman.
In a March separation filing, Ariela Neuman said in October 2010, Hemy Neuman sent an email announcing his plans to move out of their house in East Cobb County. That same day, she alleges, he and Andrea Sneiderman went on an overnight business trip to Greenville, S.C.
Ariela Neuman said her husband purchased a pistol Nov. 1 and took it to Pannell’s Firearms and Range in Woodstock for target practice.
On Nov. 18, the day of the shooting, Hemy Neuman retrieved the company-issued computer of Andrea Sneiderman so he could erase evidence of the relationship, Ariela Neuman has said.