Waiting on a Neulander Verdict

by 6 - ABC, Action News | Nov 7, 2001
Waiting on a Neulander Verdict CAMDEN, N.J. – November 8, 2001: The fourth day of deliberations Wednesday in the murder trial of Rabbi Fred J. Neulander ended in a familiar way – without a verdict and with the judge reminding jurors to avoid media accounts and conversations about the trial.

They're on their honor – and so far jurors have told the judge they've been honorable.

Since deliberations began Nov. 1, some analysts have wondered why the jury in the high-profile case hasn't been sequestered to make sure they can't see or hear anything about the case.

Legal experts aren't sure that's a good idea.

Sequestration is rare in New Jersey. There haven't been any for at least a decade, said Michael Garrahan, the jury program coordinator in the state Administrative Office of the Courts.

Before 1955, all juries in capital cases in New Jersey were required to be sequestered.

By 1972, state Supreme Court rules changed to prohibit sequestering juries in all but exceptional cases. Other states have taken similar steps. In May, New York became the last state to drop a requirement that juries be sequestered in serious criminal cases.

Part of the reason for letting jurors go home is that putting them up in hotels was expensive and inconvenient for the jurors.

Garrahan said it would also be harder to fill a jury if sequestration was possible and it would be more likely to have jurors leave due to personal circumstances.

In the Neulander case, some 1,000 jurors were summoned to court before the pool was whittled down to 16. Two of the 16 were excused due to personal matters, leaving just two alternates. They must report for court each day during deliberations, though they're not allowed in the discussions.

Sequestering juries could affect the outcome of the case: "Locking people up is coercive – or it can be perceived as coercive," said Edward Ohlbaum, a professor at Temple Law School in Philadelphia.

The main reason to sequester would be in cases where the media is reporting new revelations made outside testimony before the jury.

In the Neulander case, there's been plenty of analysis in the media during the trial, particularly on television and radio talk shows, but actual developments have been few.

Several outlets reported Monday and Tuesday on a book on rabbinical issues Neulander wrote under a nom de plum. The 288-page "Keep Your Mouth Shut and Your Arms Open" was released Monday.

Neulander's son, Matthew, 28, who now lives in Charlotte, N.C., gave an interview to WCAU-TV in Philadelphia this week. He called his father's book "a total disgrace."

Also, The Philadelphia Daily News cited anonymous sources Saturday when it reported that two of Neulander's children would testify on behalf of their father if there's a death-penalty phase.

That would happen only if the jury returns a guilty verdict on the capital murder charge. The jury is also considering felony murder and conspiracy charges.

By the time deliberations ended Wednesday, the jury had given no hint of which way it was leaning.

The jury deliberated nearly three full days since asking the judge a legal question.

The last one the six men and six women consider the case posed came early Friday – after only a few hours of deliberating. That was: What would happen if they couldn't reach a unanimous verdict.

Superior Court Judge Linda G. Baxter said it was premature to answer that and ordered the jury to keep deliberating.

The jury has now worked for nearly 24 hours over four days. They've been interrupted by a weekend and Election Day on Tuesday.

During testimony, prosecutors laid out a case accusing Neulander, 60, of arranging to have his wife, Carol, 52, killed so he could continue an affair with a congregant at Congregation M'kor Shalom, where he was senior rabbi.

Among the witnesses in the 11 days of testimony were two confessed hit men who said they killed Mrs. Neulander at her husband's behest.

Paul Michael Daniels, 27, and Len Jenoff, 56, are in jail awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty last year to aggravated manslaughter.

When he testified in his own defense, Neulander denied Jenoff's story that the two of them plotted the killing.

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Author: 6 - ABC, Action News

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