Reporting Gary Nelson
MIAMI (CBS4) – Jury selection got underway Monday for the trial of Aventura developer Adam Kaufman who is accused of killing his wife Lina.
Just after 11 a.m., the first selection from the jury pool of approximately 100 people entered the court room where they were informed not use their cell phones, Tweet, or go on Facebook to tell anyone about their jury service.
Kaufman, who was wearing a dark blue suit, is charged with second degree murder. Also in the court room were Kaufman’s father, uncle and identical twin brother.
Judge Bronwyn Miller told the prospective jurors that the trial will take “approximately three weeks” and she hoped to have a jury seated by the “end of the week.”
One man was excused after told the court that he could not be fair to the state because he was once wrongly accused of battery and found not guilty by a jury. That “ordeal”, he said, has left him permanently prejudiced against prosecutors.
A woman was dismissed after she said she had prepaid for a long planned trip to New York.
No one in the first group questioned claimed to have extensive knowledge of the Kaufman case or formed an opinion as to his guilt or innocence.
In November 2007 a hysterical Kaufman called 911 and said that he had awakened after a night of sleep to find his wife in the bathroom, unconscious, her neck draped over a bar on a magazine rack.
More than a year and a half later, Aventura police charged Kaufman with murder. The medical examiner found that Lina Kaufman had been killed by “mechanical strangulation,” and that force would have to have been applied to cause her to strangle.
Police disputed Kaufman’s claim that he had been asleep all night. An arriving officer at the scene reported that the hood of his car was still warm, suggesting he had recently arrived home. Police also said it appeared only one side of the couple’s bed had been slept in, suggesting that only Lina Kaufman had been in the night she was killed.
Originally Kaufman’s defense attorneys said that they would argue that Lina Kaufman had a history of fainting spells, and that she had applied a spray-on tan earlier that resulted in a violent allergic reaction, causing fatal respiratory failure after she collapsed, her neck draped over the magazine rack.
The defense will now argue that Lina Kaufman died of congestive heart failure, that she had a bad heart and her lungs filled with fluid. Their experts will allegedly testify that she was sitting on the toilet, had a heart attack and fell over with her neck hitting the bar of the magazine rack.
They will now reportedly introduce the spray tan issue to attack the allegedly sloppy work by the Medical Examiner’s Office, but it will no longer be a focus of their case.
The trial will feature battling medical experts.
In an odd twist, Lina Kaufman’s parents are on the defense witness list. In a pre-trial hearing Friday, defense attorney William Matthewman said the parents will offer testimony that supports the position that their son-in-law did not kill their daughter. Part of the defense’s strategy will be reportedly to attack the Aventura police department’s investigation for failing to listen to Lina Kaufman’s mother who tried to tell them of her daughter’s medical history and fainting episodes.
Adam Kaufman has been free on a half million dollar bond since June, 2009. Charged with 2nd degree murder, he faces possible life in prison if convicted.
Judge Miller rejected a defense request that jurors not be allowed to hear testimony from police that Kaufman’s car was still warm when they arrived at the couple’s Aventura condominium and that his side of the bed appeared not to have been slept in. The defense argued, unsuccessfully, that the observations of the officers were subjective.
The judge also rejected a motion to allow jurors to hear a defense claim that Kaufman passed a polygraph, or lie detector test.