MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The defense has gone on the offense in the in the trial of Adam Kaufman, an Aventura developer accused of killing his wife Lina in 2007.
Prosecutors say based on the evidence and observations of police officers involved in the investigation and the Medical Examiner Kaufman strangled his wife and then called 911 and told the operator he found his wife dead the their bathroom.
Kaufman’s defense attorneys claim Lina had a history of health problems and on the morning of her death she had a heart attack in the bathroom, collapsed and her neck ended up draped over a magazine rack. Kaufman said his wife had a history of heart problems and had fainted on a number of occasions in the past.
First up on the stand Monday for the defense was Broward Sheriff’s CSI investigator Thomas Hill who testified police failed to collect key pieces of potential evidence, including Kaufman’s clothing, the magazines from the magazine rack and the bedding from their master bedroom.
Hill testified he could see no evidence of a struggle in the tiny bathroom.
“My goodness, she would have been kicking those walls in, and I don’t see any of that.”
Hill testified if Lina was being strangled, there should have been gouge marks on Adam Kaufman’s hands from her trying to claw them from her neck. He said there were no such marks on Kaufman’s hands.
After Hill, the defense called former Palm Beach County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. John Marriccini, a regular consultant to the Miami-Dade’s Medical Examiner’s Office, who testified that Lina Kaufman had “substantial” heart disease which was not detected by MDME. He said he was immediately suspicious when reviewing the case.
“I was not satisfied. I was on the hunt for any other manner and cause of death there might be.”
Marriccini testified he found extensive scarring on Lina Kauman’s heart, the result of myocarditis, inflammation of the heart.
The expert testified the condition could cause fainting spells and death. This would be consistent with the defense argument that Lina collapsed from heart failure and struck her neck on a magazine rack.
Marraccini concluded that Kaufman died from “postural asphyxiation;” she collapsed from a heart episode and came to rest on the magazine rack, causing her airway to be blocked.
“Gravity got her,” the expert said.
Her death was not a homicide, according to Marraccini, and marks on her neck were not consistent with her being strangled.
“This was not homicide,” Marraccini said.
At the end of the day’s testimony, prosecutors asked the judge if the could introduce evidence that Kaufman had previous arrest or arrests for battery, most recently as 14 years ago. The defense said if the judge allowed that, it would be a “reversible error.” Judge reserved ruling. The trial then recessed for the day. There will be no trial Wednesday due to a juror conflict. It will resume at 9 a.m. on Thursday.
Last week, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Capt. Joseph Carman, the first responder to enter the house the morning Kaufman died, testified for the defense. He said he found Adam giving Lina CPR, and that Adam was wearing a T-shirt and boxer shorts which was consistent with his story that he awoke after a night of sleep to discover his wife collapsed in the bathroom.
The defense has argued others who said Kaufman was fully dressed, like he had recently arrived home, mistook his identical twin brother Seth who had rushed over after getting a call from his brother.
Lina Kaufman’s mother also took the stand for the defense. Frida Aizman testified that Adam and Lina Kaufman had a loving relationship.
“It was very happy. I saw only good stuff from those two,” said Aizman.
Aizman said her daughter had a history of fainting spells. She said she was not surprised when she got a call the morning her daughter died and was told Lina had “passed out.” On cross examination, Aizman conceded that she never mentioned her daughter’s history of fainting spells during an earlier, sworn statement she gave prosecutors.
Kaufman, who is charged with second degree murder, could be sentenced to life in prison if he is convicted.