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Andrea Sneiderman: What if the DA Agrees to Change Venue?

An Atlanta attorney's analysis of the venue issues in the Andrea Sneiderman case. Different county? Different Judge? Different jury pool?

 

In my August 25th blog post about change of venue, I did not address the possibility that the DA might agree to change venue.  (I strongly recommend you read the 8/25 post first as a primer for this post).  I had only considered a defense motion to change venue.  In any event, a change of venue will address the issue whether it is possible to obtain an impartial jury not already prejudiced or influenced by the pre-trial publicity and media coverage of this case. 

The reasons Andrea Sneiderman would seek a change of venue are not difficult to guess.  Andrea Sneiderman wants to find jurors that know absolutely nothing about this case.  She wants jurors who have not seen the Hemy Neuman trial or her testimony from that trial. She wants jurors who have not yet been swayed against her by the pre-trial publicity.  She would contend that it is impossible to seat an impartial jury from DeKalb County.  She would contend it is impossible to find a panel of jurors that has not been prejudiced by pre-trial publicity.  In short, she wants a change of venue in order to seat a jury that is unaffected by the pre-trial publicity. 

While the DA may see an advantage by keeping this trial in DeKalb County for many reasons, the DA might agree to change venue for other strategic reasons.  A stipulation as to a change of venue would eliminate almost any ground Andrea would have to appeal an unfavorable verdict (e.g. guilty) based on an inability to obtain an impartial jury on account of pre-trial publicity.    

I would suspect all parties would prefer to keep the trial at the DeKalb County court house for convenience.  As nice as some of Georgia's remote counties are, spending five weeks away from home for a trial can be a strain on anyone.  Nevertheless, if the parties agree on how to pay the costs to import a jury from one of Georgia's 159 Counties and house them for the anticipated 5 week trial, Andrea would get her new jury pool and everyone could stay local.  In the alternative, the parties could agree to move the trial to a different county, in a different court house, and possibly agree on a different Judge.  

Nevertheless, if the matter is physically moved to a different County, Judge Adams might still preside over the trial.  Do not forget, however, that Judge Adams has several cases that he must handle while presiding over Andrea's trial, and those cases are not paused during the pendency of a long trial.  Judge Adams cannot be away from his court room for five weeks.  If you recall, there were several occasions that the Judge would pause the Hemy Neuman trial for an afternoon, or for a day, so that he could conduct other business, i.e. attend to other cases, or personal matters.   Thus, for Judge Adams to handle this case in another County would mean having to coordinate the other matters on his case docket.  It is possible, but would certainly put a strain on the Judge.   

I would remind readers that a change of venue is, first and foremost, a method of changing to a jury pool that is unaffected by pre-trial publicity, i.e. can remain impartial.  It does not necessarily mean a new physical location or new Judge.  For the fans of Judge Adams, I think it is still likely Judge Adams will preside over this trial even if there is a change of venue either by order of the Court or by stipulation of the parties.  Judge Adams is very familiar with this matter, and the law favors the resulting judicial economy and efficiency from having a judge familiar with the case, parties, counsel, etc. 

I mentioned above that Georgia has 159 Counties.  Outside the metro areas of Atlanta, Macon, Augusta, Columbus and Savannah, Georgia is less metropolitan.  I am a Georgia native.  I love my southern roots.  I thoroughly enjoy day trips to Georgia’s rural areas.  However, for the purposes of litigation strategy, you have to consider that Georgia's rural areas are generally considered to have conservative juries which present entirely different challenges for the DA and the defense as compared to the issue of pre-trial publicity.  

Picking a venue is important for reasons other than pre-trial publicity.  I would not be surprised if Andrea's defense team has serious reservations about moving this trial into a rural area where Andrea Sneiderman could unintentionally ostracize a jury merely because of who she is, e.g. she is from the city, Jewish, wealthy, highly educated, etc.  “My Cousin Vinnie” was a movie, but recall the local animosity towards the Karate Kid at the outset of that case?  It was creative Hollywood scriptwriters that wrote an acquittal and gave Pesci wonderful trial skills.  In the real world, the art and science of jury selection is an industry in and of itself.  While I hope that someday we can be guaranteed to have stereotype and prejudice free juries, the world is not a perfect place.  As a lawyer, you just try to pick the perfect jury.

Perhaps Andrea’s lawyers may suggest Savannah or Macon?  Those cities may not be as metropolitan as Atlanta, but they are certainly not as rural as some county seats, such as Talbotton, in Talbot County, Georgia. (I randomly picked a remote county from my map.  So, to the 7000 residents of Talbot County and the 1200 or so in the city of Talbotton, you are my Georgia kin, and I'm not trying to offend you.  Nevertheless, I welcome your comments at my address below).  

I tend to think Andrea may do better staying in an Atlanta metro-area county and screening a large jury pool of 300 or more potential jurors, searching for individuals who have not followed the pre-trial press. Yes - as unlikely as it may seem to some of you reading this blog, some from the other side of the globe, there are people in Atlanta, lawyers in my office even, who reside in DeKalb county, who do not recognize such names and phrases as “Andrea Sneiderman,” “Hemy Neuman,” “Shayna Citron” or “Dunwoody Daycare Murder."

If there is a change of venue, you should not worry about that affecting your ability to watch what promises to be an interesting trial.  We all should still be able to view the trial, either on TV or through the magic of internet streaming, unless, of course, a new court or new judge determines it does not want cameras in its courtroom.

Please follow me on twitter for instant updates and additional info on this case, including the pending civil matters, links to good articles, and live streams of hearings and the trial.  I welcome your comments and criticism.

For inquiries or more information:   

Winter Capriola Zenner,LLC 

Email David Weinberg

Twitter: @SpeakerDave

Facebook: #DMTDC

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Robert Ostrow November 06, 2012 at 10:57 AM
due process and presumption of innosence.

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