March 9 (Bloomberg) -- Hemy Neuman, a GE Energy manager, put on a fake beard, drove a rented minivan to a suburban Atlanta day care center and shot an ex-JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker dropping off his son, defense lawyers said.
Neuman’s lawyers have told jurors in Georgia state court in Decatur that their client was temporarily insane and unable to stop himself from killing Russell Sneiderman, 36, the husband of a female subordinate at GE. Prosecutors in the trial, which has drawn intense local attention, contend Neuman was aware he was committing murder in front of the Dunwoody Prep preschool.
According to testimony this week by Adriana Flores, a forensic psychologist, Neuman was sexually obsessed with Sneiderman’s wife, Andrea, 35. He believed he was acting on orders from an angel with the voice of singer Olivia Newton John and a demon who sounded like Barry White, Flores said.
Neuman, 49, is charged with premeditated murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. DeKalb County District Attorney Bob James has said he will seek a life sentence without parole. Neuman’s lawyers finished presenting witnesses yesterday.
A psychiatrist testifying today for the prosecution, Pamela Crawford, told the jury that some of Neuman’s symptoms, such as a memory lapse, were “consistent with lying.”
For example, he couldn’t remember whether he had sexual intercourse with Andrea Sneiderman or fabricated it, she said.
In a video-recorded interview played in court, Neuman told Crawford about a trip the couple took to South Carolina.
He remembered their “having fun” hunting for a bottle of wine at 9 p.m., he said. If the psychiatrist had asked during the trip whether the couple had sex, he “would have said yes,” Crawford told the jury.
During the interviews, he wasn’t so sure but said they had been “intimate,” Crawford testified. Aside from that, he showed a “tremendous memory,” she said.
She said Neuman never thought to discuss the angel and demon, who he said started visiting him when he was a child in an Israeli boarding school, until he spoke to his defense attorney for this case, Bob Rubin.
“It was detailed -- it was methodical,” Crawford said of the killing. Planning and committing the crime “would not be consistent with someone being acutely manic,” she said.
“Based on my findings and the statute, the defendant would be criminally responsible for murder,” she said.
According to a Sept. 16, 2011, search warrant, police had cause to believe Neuman was having an extramarital affair with Andrea Sneiderman, which may have provided the motive for the November 2010 killing, they said.
In an affidavit submitted to secure another warrant, detectives said they would seek anything showing Neuman and Andrea Sneiderman might have collaborated in the crime. She hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing.
Neuman told police detectives in a recorded interview shown in court that, before the killing, he supervised 5,000 workers at the General Electric Co. unit’s quality systems division in Atlanta. Andrea Sneiderman worked in software systems support.
The prosecution may be the highest profile case in the Atlanta area since 1982 when Wayne Williams, suspected of 29 child murders, was convicted of killing two adults.
It has become a local attraction. A handful of members of the Red Hat Society, an international women’s group with 40,000 chapters dedicated to fun and fulfillment, according to its website, stopped at the trial last week on their way to tour the state Capitol in Atlanta.
Murder, Sex, Insanity
“You have murder, you have sex, you have insanity,” said Roy Peter Clark, a media analyst at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. “You have a day care center, you have a disguise, you have the intersection of normal upper middle class life with some of the most destructive elements of society.”
Those factors have made “otherwise responsible citizens sit up and take notice,” he said of the trial.
Flores, the defense witness, testified that Neuman told her that angels and demons guided his actions.
“He did not have the capacity to know right from wrong” when he shot Sneiderman, said Flores. She said she diagnosed him as bipolar and psychotic and found him delusional.
Neuman hasn’t testified during the trial. He sat as another defense forensic psychiatrist, Tracey Marks, described the affair that Neuman believed he had with Sneiderman. Marks said the belief was a sign of mania.
Evidence of Planning
Prosecutors have called witnesses in an effort to prove the defendant planned the murder.
Jan DaSilva, who sold Neuman the gun allegedly used in the shooting, testified the defendant told him, “Don’t ever have a mistress.”
Witnesses to the shooting included a chiropractor, Craig Kuhlmeir and his wife, Aliyah Stotter. After the disguised assailant shot Sneiderman, he returned to the van and sped off, they testified. In court, they identified Neuman as the shooter.
The shooter’s haste and use of a disguise indicated that Neuman knew he was committing a crime, prosecutors argued.
Police in Dunwoody arrested Neuman after determining he had rented a silver Kia Sedona matching the one seen at the location of the crime, the day before the killing, according to court papers.
Andrea Sneiderman testified earlier that she didn’t have an affair with Neuman. She didn’t return calls seeking comment on the trial this week. Seth Kirschenbaum, her lawyer, didn’t return a call seeking comment yesterday on the case.
In the police interview played in court, Neuman recalled attending the burial of Russell Sneiderman, including casting a handful of dirt on the grave.
Marks, the defense psychiatrist, said Andrea Sneiderman in e-mails pulled Neuman in emotionally and then pushed him away. She would complain about her husband’s being an absentee father to their two children and encourage Neuman to discuss her problems, Marks said.
Sneiderman said in the e-mails that she regretted some things they did during out-of-town trips, Marks said. In her testimony at the trial, she said that referred to holding hands.
Such exchanges led the emotionally fragile Neuman to become delusional and believe he was the father of Sneiderman’s children and that he should protect them, Marks said.
On the day of the shooting, Neuman knew right from wrong “globally,” while being delusional in thinking that killing Russell Sneiderman was the best way to protect the children, according to Marks.
Neuman Called Sick
“Mr. Neuman is sick,” Doug Peters, his defense lawyer, said in court.
Howard Masto and Kenneth Darling, spokesmen for GE Energy, didn’t respond to voice and e-mail messages seeking comment on the case yesterday after regular business hours.
The burden is on the defense to prove insanity, said Charles Patrick Ewing, a law school professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Fewer than 1 percent of criminal cases involve a temporary insanity defense, and no more than one-third of such defenses prevail, he said.
The legal definition of insanity also differs from the medical definition of mentally ill. A schizophrenic wouldn’t be found legally insane if he was aware that what he was doing was wrong, said Ewing, the author of “Insanity: Murder, Madness, and the Law.”
“Any advance planning or fleeing a crime scene undermines an insanity defense,” he said.
“I tell my students you have to be crazy to plead insanity,” he said. “If you win, you face being locked up for life.”
The case is State v. Neuman, 11CR1364-5, Georgia Superior Court, DeKalb County (Decatur)
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