In 2007, a man previously found guilty of murder walked a free man. A member of his defense team – Jonathan Bach – is now in Syracuse, defending Robert Neulander after the former doctor was convicted of killing his wife Leslie in 2015.
The New York City-based attorney comes to the old Onondaga County Courthouse with over 30 years of experience, according to his bio at his law firm – Shapiro Arato Bach. It’s the firm Neulander hired for his appeal, winning a second trial after a higher court found egregious misconduct from a juror in the first trial.
Bach started off his career with the Federal Public Defenders of New York, beginning to make a name for himself in downstate legal circles. Gaining widespread recognition with the acquittal of David Lemus – found guilty of murdering a New York City nightclub bouncer in 1992, serving 14 years in prison before his second trial in 2007.
“Jonathan has a long long history as a defense attorney,” said Susan Necheles, a partner at Necheles Law in New York City, “you know he really dove into it and devoted himself to it.”
Necheles is the former President of the New York Council of Defense Lawyers – a position Bach now holds. Necheles said that she has worked closely with Bach in the past, and expects a strong showing from him in Syracuse.
“I think that you will see that the level of preparation will be top-notch. He will know everything, all the facts, everything that’s going on. I expect that his cross-examinations will be excellent,” Necheles said.
While the Lemus trial has similarities to what Bach is likely looking to accomplish with Neulander, there are key differences. According to the New York Times – there were issues in the first trial, and higher courts later found that there was significant circumstantial evidence that pointed to the fact that Lemus had been wrongly convicted.
In the first trial – a drug enforcer testified behind closed doors that he and another accomplice were responsible for the Palladium nightclub shooting, not Lemus.
In the years since Neulander’s guilty verdict in 2015 – no new evidence has been brought forward, nor did any higher courts take issue with the prosecution or the verdict. The second trial comes solely due to juror misconduct – though Neulander has maintained his innocence.
According to Bach’s bio – he helped achieve a witness-stand confession from the true murderer in the nightclub shooting. There are no other suspects named by law enforcement in Leslie Neulander’s death – the argument from the defense is that her death was accidental.
Bach’s resume does not feature a host of other murder trials. Instead, he has primarily handled white-collar fraud cases.
According to Peter Pullano, an experienced defense attorney with Tully Rinckey in Rochester, the jury is unlikely to care much one way or the other that the defense team is out of town.
Whether or not the jury had extensive knowledge of anyone in the room – from Neulander to the DA to the defense attorney – was covered during jury selection.
“In my experience, the jurors are looking for how the attorney is handling the case, and more specifically they’re looking for the case itself,” said Pullano.