Closing Arguments Underway In Aventura Developers Murder Trial
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Closing arguments will continue Tuesday in the murder trial of Aventura developer Adam Kaufman who is accused of killing his wife Lina in 2007.
The state began closing arguments shortly after 3 p.m. Monday, followed by the defense. The prosecution will have a chance to give a brief rebuttal Tuesday morning.
Earlier in the day, Prosecutor Joe Mansfield told jurors they could discount the notion that the Kaufman’s had a perfect marriage, despite testimony from friends and relatives that said otherwise.
Mansield said people often learn a couple is divorcing and think, “Oh my God, I thought those two were perfect together. I never saw them argue. I never saw any of that. But you don’t get to see behind the closed doors of relationships. You don’t know what goes on.”
Throughout the trial, prosecutors have argued that based on the evidence, observations of police officers involved in the investigation and the Medical Examiner’s conclusions, 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.
Mansfield discounted the lack of a motive for the alleged murder, in his closing argument.
“Its hard to say why he did it,” Mansfield said. “The law doesn’t require us to tell you why.”
Mansfield said the injuries to Lina’s neck were too severe to be consistent with the defense that she collapsed from an undiagnosed heart condition and struck her throat on a magazine rack.
“This defendant is guilty of second degree murder,” Mansfield said. “Go back to that jury room and convict him of it. Don’t be ashamed to say, ‘We’re going to hold you accountable, Adam Kaufman, for what you did to your wife. You murdered her.'”
The defense told jurors Kaufman had been put through the ordeal of being wrongly accused.
“Adam Kaufman is publicly humiliated, falsely charged for a crime he did not commit, a homicide that did not occur,” said defense attorney William Matthewman.
Matthewman also made much of the fact that it took a year and a half for the state to charge Kaufman.
“A delay of 18 months, and Dr. Hyma miraculously calls this a homicide by mechanical asphyxiation,” said Matthewman, referring to Miami-Dade Medical Examiner Bruce Hyma.
Hyma, Matthewman said, ruled the death a murder the same day that the Kaufman filed a complaint with state regulators over the delay in a decision on Lina Kaufman’s cause of death. They were concerned that she may have suffered from a genetic condition, the defense attorney said, that would need to be addressed with the couple’s two children.
Matthewman said Lina Kaufman’s natural death led to a “flawed, bungled, inept prosecution of an innocent man.”
One of the final witnesses called by the state was Dr. Erik Mont, a former cardio-pathologist at the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office, who dissected Lina Kaufman’s heart.
“Cardiac pathology examination was requested so I conducted an examination of her heart,” said Mont.
Mont said he wanted to rule out causes other than murder for Lina Kaufman’s death.
“I found nothing abnormal, I found what is essentially a normal heart for a young adult woman,” said Mont.
Mont admitted on cross-examination that he was unaware of a supplemental report entered into Lina Kaufman’s case file that revealed scarring of her heart. He said he doubted that would have changed his opinion.
Still, the revelation may have served to cast further doubt on the state’s murder theory.
Mont’s testimony was intended to counter pathologists for the defense who said Kaufman suffered from an underlying heart disease that the medical examiner missed.
Last Thursday Kaufman’s defense team brought in one of the most famous forensic pathologists in the country to poke holes in the prosecution’s case.
Dr. Michael Baden is the former Chief Medical Examiner for New York City. He also headed the pathology board that re-examined the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King at the request of Congress. Baden was an expert in the OJ Simpson murder trial, the Claus Von Bulow case, and the deaths of John Belushi and Sid Vicious, among others.
“Lina Kaufman did not die of unnatural causes,” testified Baden. “There was no homicide, there was no murder. She died of natural causes.”
Baden said Miami-Dade Medical Examiner Bruce Hyma relied on the work of two rookie associates to conclude that Lina Kaufman was strangled. Baden said Lina suffered from heart disease the ME missed.
“There’s good evidence of what the natural death was,” Baden said.
The state had said that Mont would be their last witness, but now say they will call two paramedics to try to rebutt the defense argument that three botched efforts to intubate Lina Kaufman caused some of the injuries to her neck and throat.
At one point the defense moved for a directed verdict of acquittal claiming the state had not met its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
“This case is so weak, so lacking in evidence, so based on speculation, that a reasonable jury could not convict,” argued Matthewman.
Judge Miller denied the motion and said the jury will weigh the arguments of the defense and reach its own conclusions.
Over the objections of the defense, the judge said she will tell jurors they can find Kaufman guilty of the “lesser included offense” of manslaughter. The defense wanted an all or nothing murder instruction. The concern is that jurors will now have a compromise verdict option.
Kaufman, who is charged with second degree murder, could be sentenced to life in prison if he is convicted.