Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Update: What if the DA Agrees to Change Venue?

What if the DA agrees to change venue?

In my August 25th post about change of venue, I did not address the possibility that the DA might to agree to change venue.  A change of venue would address the issue whether it is possible to obtain an impartial jury not already influenced by pre-trial publicity of this case.

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 a stipulation to change venue for other strategic reasons.  A stipulation as to a change of venue would eliminate 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 even with a different Judge.

If the matter is moved to a different County, Judge Adams may 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 attending to other matters.  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.  It does not necessarily mean a new physical location or new Judge.  For 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 cities.  However, for the purposes of litigation strategy, you have to consider that Georgia's rural areas are considered to have conservative juries presenting an entirely different challenge to overcome as opposed to pre-trial publicity. 

If I were Andrea's defense team, I would have serious reservations about moving this trial into a rural area where Andrea Sneiderman could ostracize the jury merely because she is not like them, e.g. she is Jewish, wealthy, highly educated, married a Harvard graduate, etc.  “My Cousin Vinnie” was a movie, but recall the jury animosity towards the Karate Kid at the outset of that trial?  It was creative Hollywood scriptwriters that wrote an acquittal.  In the real world, jury selection is an industry in and of itself.  Perhaps that is why Andrea’s lawyers may have suggested Savannah, as reported by the Crier?  Savannah may not be as metropolitan as Atlanta, but it is certainly not as rural as some county seats, such as Talbotton, in Talbot County, Georgia. (To the 7000 residents of Talbot County, and the 1200 or so in the city of Talbotton, please direct your comments to my address below).

I tend to think Andrea would do better staying in an Atlanta metro-area county and screening a large jury pool, 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 from the other side of the globe, there are people in Atlanta, lawyers in my office even, who reside in DeKalb county, who would not recognize such names and phrases as “Andrea Sneiderman,” “Hemy Neuman,” “Shayna Citron” or “Dunwoody Daycare Murder.”  

Regardless of whether there is a change of venue, we all should still be able to view the trial unless a new court or judge determines it does not want cameras in its courtroom. 

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  1. Interesting read. Thank you for putting things in perspective and clarifying a few legalities.

    One of your readers from "the other side of the globe".

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