The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 27, 2013

Suspect asks to waive jury trial in homicide case

By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item

— LEWISBURG — Accused killer Joel R. Snider wants to dismiss his attorneys and waive a jury trial, expressing his frustration with the justice system in a four-page letter to Union County Judge Michael Hudock.

“I would like to waive the guilt phase of my trial and the sentencing-mitigating phase. I do not accept the U.S. Justice System as having any authority over me,” Snider, 36, wrote in a letter dated Saturday.

A copy was sent to The Daily Item by Snider, who is being held in the Clinton County Jail awaiting trial on homicide and burglary charges in the July 2010 shooting death of Sudharman, 70, a well-known yoga master also known as Joe Fenton, as he slept in his New Berlin home.

Snider faces the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.

Williamsport defense attorney Edward “E.J.” Rymsza and William Miele were appointed as his counsel in September 2010 and will stay on despite Snider’s complaints.

“Bill and I remain very dedicated to him and will vigorously defend him,” Rymsza said.

The attorneys are pursuing a mental infirmity defense.

A former yoga student of Sudharman’s from St. Louis, Mo., Snider was quickly identified as the suspected gunman after another yoga instructor from Virginia turned over several emails Snider had sent her outlining his plans to “assassinate” Sudharman.

He has been a prolific letter writer behind bars, frequently complaining about his frustration with his attorneys and referencing past mental problems.

The content of the letters became such a concern that in December, then-Chief Deputy Attorney General Frank Fina asked Hudock for a closed-door court hearing to discuss the issues with Snider to avoid derailing the case.

Since then, Fina resigned from the state office and Senior Deputy Attorney General Anthony Forray has been appointed as prosecutor.

Rymsza said Snider’s latest missive will not lead to any changes.

Snider frequently refers to his mental state in his letters and concluded his recent note to Hudock by saying he’s not interested in having the “story of my life, my successes, failures, friendships and supports, sufferings and good works used as bargaining chips within the U.S. Justice System ... to convince people who do not know me to apply her laws to me in one way or another.”