Chief Medical examiner Dr. Bruce Hyma returned to the witness stand Tuesday in the murder trial of Aventura developer Adam Kaufman, who is charged in the 2007 death of his wife.
Hyma testified that he was convinced to a medical certainty that Lina Kaufman died from mechanical asphyxiation applied by another person or persons.
“From the medical evidence, this is a mechanical, an outside mechanical force, that was applied to her neck that is responsible for her death,” said Hyma. "Given the information I have on this case, this is consistent with strangulation."
Adam Kaufman claims he woke up November 7th and found Lina unconscious in the bathroom, her neck draped over a magazine rack.
Hyma rebuffed that claim, saying the deep strangulation bruising on Kaufman’s neck could not have been caused by the magazine holder.
“These injuries are not consistent with that scenario,” Hyma said."It's not caused by an accident. It's done at the direct application at force to the neck, resulting in her asyphysiation."
During questioning on Monday, Hyma said it took 18 months to rule Kaufman’s death a murder because he wanted to get it right, rather than fast. Hyma said it appeared from the start that Lina Kaufman was the victim of a homicide. He said that part of the delay was due to toxicology and other testing, including an extraordinary neurological examination of Lina Kaufman’s brain.
On cross-examination, the defense tried to show the M.E. and police were under pressure to make a call and they made the wrong call. Defense attorneys have said that’s because the medical examiner couldn’t figure out what killed her and in the end got it wrong, adding that Hyma trusted the work of his colleagues, and didn't examine much of the evidence himself nor look at Lina Kaufman's medical records.
"There wasn't any additional information that I needed in addition," said Hyma.
"You are aware, doctor, that in the American legal system, we don't convict people when evidence doesn't exist," replied defense attorney Al Milian.
Earlier in the day, the state tipped its hand as to why they suspect Aventura developer Adam Kaufman allegedly killed his wife.
During an argument before Judge Bronwyn Miller out of earshot of the jury, prosecutor Mathew Baldwin said Kaufman was looking for a new woman to be with.
“He’s asking this girl out with his dead wife’s wedding ring on his finger the next month, in December of ’07. By January and February, they’re having regular sex,” prosecutor Mathew Baldwin said. “He was not exactly devastated by his wife’s passing. The best analogy I can think of is when Casey Anthony was getting a tattoo.”
The reference to the notorious Anthony murder case brought howls of protest from the defense.
The state was forced to admit that it had no evidence that Kaufman was unfaithful to his wife prior to her death.
“After Lina passed away, Adam is still wearing his wedding ring,” defense attorney William Matthewman said. “He had to be forced to go out. He had to be pushed to go out.”
Miller ruled they would not be allowed to hear about Kaufman’s dating after his wife’s death, ruling that it was not sufficiently relevant.
Matthewman asked for a mistrial, arguing that the state tainted the jury with a question about the dating that was cut off by the judge. The judge denied the mistrial, but instructed the jury to disregard the prosecutor’s aborted question.
Earlier in the morning, two of Lina Kaufman’s friends gave emotional testimony. Rina Azulay cried on the stand as she identified her former best friend from her wedding photo.
Azulay testified Lina Kaufman was active and healthy. Another good friend, Melissa Fedowitz, wept as she described Lina as a “one in a million, strong, happy, vibrant friend.”
Both Fedowitz and Azulay back the prosecutor’s claim that Lina was a healthy, active woman and that Kaufman strangled her in the bathroom of their condo. Kaufman’s defense team claims Lina had health issues and the day she died she had a heart attack and hit her neck on a magazine rack as she collapsed.
Kaufman, who is charged with second degree murder, could be sentenced to life in prison if he is convicted.