Criminal court

Sides clash in Kaufman closing arguments

 

The judge will send the case to the jury on Tuesday. Adam Kaufman is accused of murdering his wife. The defense says he’s a victim of a botched investigation.

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

Adam Kaufman: wife murderer, or victim of a botched police and medical investigation?

Jurors will soon decide.

After a one-month trial marked by a litany of medical experts, fierce legal wrangling and emotional testimony from relatives of the Aventura man and his wife, jurors heard a final recap during closing arguments Monday.

The state’s theory: Kaufman strangled his wife, Eleonora “Lina” Kaufman, leaving strange markings on her neck, burst blood vessels in the eyes and a host of bruises on her body.

“We know they did not have a perfect marriage because perfect marriages don’t end like this,” prosecutor Joseph Mansfield told jurors, pointing to autopsy photos showing the neck marks on the woman.

The defense: Eleonora Kaufman died of an undiagnosed heart ailment and a fall on a magazine rack, facts missed by an overzealous rookie homicide detective and an inept medical examiner.

“This American tragedy began on the morning of Nov. 7, 2007, and it led to a flawed, bungled inept prosecution of an innocent man,” attorney Bill Matthewman said.

On Tuesday, prosecutors will present a rebuttal closing argument, then Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Bronwyn Miller will read jurors the law and send them to deliberate.

Kaufman, a real estate executive and former school teacher, is charged with second-degree murder and faces life in prison.

Paramedics found the body of Eleonora Kaufman in the bathroom of the couple’s Aventura home in November 2007.

With no eyewitnesses or evidence of a motive, the case was built on the opinion of Dr. Bruce Hyma, Miami-Dade Chief Medical Examiner, who ruled the case homicide by mechanical asphyxia.

“There was nobody else in the house that morning,” Mansfield said, saying Kaufman showed a “depraved mind”for “putting his hands or whatever he put around her neck and literally choking the life out of her.”

The health of 33-year-old Eleonora Kaufman was a focal point of the trial, with prosecutors contending that she was an active woman who had been given a clean bill of health by a cosmetic surgeon just months before her death.

However, Eleonora Kaufman’s mother, testifying for the defense, told jurors earlier that her daughter frequently complained of dizziness and fainting spells.

Mansfield, the prosecutors, pointed out that Adam Kaufman himself told paramedics and doctors that his wife had no medical history. From Kaufman’s behavior the night of the death to the varying stories he gave of how he discovered her body, investigators were suspicious from day one, he said.

The prosecutor defended the paramedics, police personnel and medical experts who testified for the state.

“There is no conspiracy here to pin the crime on the defendant,” Mansfield said.

But Matthewman, who lambasted the investigation, called it a “runaway train wreck” conducted by an inept detective, Anthony Angulo, who was not called by either side to testify.

Matthewman slammed the police for a host of failures: from not taking possession of key evidence to not questioning Eleonora Kaufman’s family about her health history.

The defense attorney ripped into a married female crime-scene technician who admitted to “covering up” an affair with Angulo. Matthewman accused her of lying about not impounding important evidence — the magazines in the rack — to “protect her paramour.”

As for Eleonora Kaufman’s health, two forensic pathologists hired by the defense testified that she died of a heart ailment and that unsuccessful rescue attempts by paramedics could have caused some of the woman’s injuries.

Dr. Michael Marraccini, former Palm Beach Medical Examiner, found a scar in samples from the woman’s heart that proved she had a heart ailment, Matthewman said. State experts, including a cardiac pathologist who examined the woman’s heart after the autopsy, insisted that her heart was healthy and that the “scar” was not life-threatening.

As for Dr. Hyma, Matthewman said, he took 18 months to rule the case a homicide — only after Kaufman called administrators in Tallahassee to complain about the delay.

‘“The Wizard’ is embarrassed the day he gets the complaint,” Matthewman said, adding that Hyma “is a bureaucrat who doesn’t want his office to have problems.”

But Mansfield defended Hyma, saying the medical examiner took his time to ensure that every base was covered in ruling on the woman’s demise.

“Rest assured ladies and gentleman,” the prosecutor told jurors, “if they had made the call [on a homicide] right away, we’d be sitting here right now arguing over whether there was a rush to judgment.”

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