From social media posts, streaming video and water-cooler chats, the trial of Hemy Neuman is a hot topic in DeKalb and around the nation.
“I was at an event…with a bunch of lawyers [and] everybody was talking about it,” said attorney B. J. Bernstein, who herself is no stranger to high-profile cases. Most recently, she has represented the plaintiffs in a sexual assault lawsuit against Bishop Eddie Long and a Florida A&M University band member who was hazed.
“People are around talking about it,” said Bernstein, who has been watching the trial in between clients. “It goes beyond what the legal paper carries.”
Media coverage, has been intense of the trial of Neuman, who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity for the November 2010 killing of Russell Sneiderman outside a daycare in Dunwoody.
Bernstein said high-profile cases have well-known defendants or “facts that are unusual and compelling.”
“It’s a like a Law and Order episode,” Bernstein said. “It literally is like watching a TV drama unfold, but sadly it’s real and involves the death of someone.”
Family members of homicide victims are usually “very teary” and talk about what kind of person the deceased was, Bernstein said, referring to Andrea Sneiderman the widow of the victim who worked for Neuman at GE Energy.
“Here you have a person who worked with this defendant,” Bernstein said. And there are “allegations of an affair that she’s denying.”
“The prosecution and defense attorneys agree that it’s an affair,” Bernstein said. “Both sides are hostile with [her] and [are] impeaching her. It’s highly unusual.”
Despite the presence of televisions cameras and journalists, the lawyers in the trial are not “getting overly dramatic,” Bernstein said.
“I don’t see any of the attorneys playing up to the cameras,” Bernstein said. “That’s not your job.”
Bernstein has had two televised cases.
“You forget [about the cameras],” Bernstein said. “A good lawyer forgets.”
Bernstein said the trial, which is expected to last four to six weeks, is being run efficiently by Superior Court Judge Gregory A. Adams.
Adams is “a good judge who accepts no nonsense any day of the week,” Bernstein said. “He is running a tight courtroom.”
During a pretrial hearing on Feb. 8, Adams had a message for all the lawyers involved in the trial: “It’s going to be tighter than you think.”
Bernstein said Adams is “a judge that has control of his courtroom and does not let anyone else take control.”
Despite the media attention, DeKalb County’s Chief Superior Court Judge Mark Anthony Scott said judges have the same task of making sure the courthouse is secure and efficient.
“Judges don’t treat cases differently because of the media attention,” Scott said. “A trial is a trial. We don’t show preference to any defendant over another.”
Scott said he has “a great deal of respect” for all of his fellow judges, including Adams.
“He’s a judge’s judge,” Scott said. “That’s why a building is named after him in DeKalb. If you want a project done right and quickly, give it to Judge Adams.”