Editor’s note: Darren Kavinoky is a criminal defense attorney at the Kavinoky Law Firm in California. He is a TV legal analyst, keynote speaker, and the creator and host of “Deadly Sins” on Investigation Discovery. He is on Twitter and Facebook.
Less than 72 hours before jury selection was to begin this week in the trial of Andrea Sneiderman for her alleged role in the murder of her husband, Rusty Sneiderman, prosecutors dismissed three of the 16 most serious charges against her.
Gone are charges that included two different theories of liability for murder, along with a charge of aggravated assault. The 37-year-old mother of two still faces 13 other charges relating to the crime and its cover-up, including four counts of perjury, seven counts of making false statements to law enforcement officers, one count of hindering the apprehension of a criminal and one count of concealment of a material fact. Since each of these charges carries a maximum of five to 10 years in prison, and since the judge has discretion to impose consecutive sentences, Sneiderman still faces the possibility of spending decades behind bars.
So, did Sneiderman get away with murder? Although she won’t be forced to answer to the murder allegation in a court of law, many in the court of public opinion say “yes.” And while courtroom observers are acutely aware of the difference between a strong suspicion of wrong doing and proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt (e.g., O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony, and George Zimmerman, to name a few), there are many things about the murder of Rusty Sneiderman that make people scratch their chins and wonder “Really?!”
Hemy Neuman has already been tried and found guilty but mentally ill in the 2010 murder. But when I look back at Neuman’s trial, Neuman’s interrogation tapes, and Sneiderman’s reactions (including acting that looked bad enough to earn her a spot on the next “Sharknado” movie), I’m left with a feeling that while Neuman may be “two scoops of crazy,” he’s not the kind of bold crazy that would kill a man without an invitation.
Prosecutors apparently agreed with me (at least until Friday or so), since they have obtained three separate grand jury indictments that charged her as being a party to the crime (which, under Georgia law, would have made her every bit as responsible as if she pulled the trigger herself). Why, in the 12th hour, after they’ve been living with the case and preparing the case for months and months, would they just now be seeking a dismissal? Especially when their assertion that it was based on compelling defense evidence was disputed by the very people who allegedly gave it to them, namely, the defense! Things that make you go “Hmmm?”
And what’s never been satisfactorily explained (at least to me) is exactly how Sneiderman — who, according to her, was told for the very first time that her husband was shot by doctors at the emergency room — was able to tell two different witnesses (her friend and her father-in-law) that Rusty had been shot about an hour before the doctors informed her? How is such a thing possible unless she knew about it in advance? How could she tell people that her husband had been shot before she was told her husband had been shot unless she knew that he was going to be shot?
And why was it that, after learning that something had happened to her husband, she didn’t try to call him, didn’t try to call authorities, didn’t call the hospital, but instead made four phone calls to her boss, Neuman, the man who pulled the trigger?
And how is it that on the day of the killing, Neuman was able to get into Sneiderman’s password-protected computer, where he was able to delete emails? Sure, maybe he was able to hack in, but isn’t it more likely, given the intimacy they allegedly had (and which she denied in the face of massive evidence to the contrary) that she simply gave him the password?
Yes, this is a case that is made of circumstantial evidence, but circumstantial evidence isn’t necessarily unreliable or bad evidence. All “circumstantial” means is that it is evidence from which an inference can be drawn. For example, direct evidence that Darren ate a cookie is if you see me put a cookie into my mouth, chew it up, and swallow it. Your testimony, if you saw this, would be direct evidence of my having ate a cookie. Circumstantial evidence would be your approaching me, seeing that the lid is off the cookie jar, seeing a ring of cookie crumbs around my mouth, and hearing me try to speak as something (perhaps cookie?) prevents the words from coming out clearly.
Is there any doubt that in the second scenario that I ate the cookie? Doesn’t Sneiderman have what amounts to an enormous amount of cookie crumbs around her mouth? It seems to me that this is something that a jury should decide.