MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Testimony resumed Wednesday in the trial of Aventura developer Adam Kaufman who is accused of killing his wife, Lina, in their condo more than four and a half years ago.
First up on the stand was Dr. Satish Chundru.
A fledgling coroner in 2007, Chundru and an assistant performed Kaufman's autopsy. Chundru testified that injuries he noted in his report, including the deep bruising on her neck, were consistent with her being asphyxiated or strangled to death.
"Did anything change your opinion that this was some type of an asphyxial death and it was a homicide," asked prosecutor Joe Mansfield.
"As I said before, it's a homicide until proven otherwise," said Chundru.
"And you found nothing in your investigation to change your opinion," asked Mansfield.
"No," replied Chundru.
During cross-examination, Kaufman's attorney Al Milian peppered Chundru with questions as to why he failed to detect scarring on Kaufman's heart indicating heart disease which the defense claims caused her to have a heart attack in the bathroom and slammed her neck into a magazine rack as she slumped over.
On Monday, Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Chester Gwinn testified that Lina Kaufman had extensive, deep bruising to her neck and bruises on her legs and back. Gwinn was not able to determine a definitive cause or manner of death.
Since the cause of death was inconclusive, Milian questioned why the Medical Examiner's Office report would conclude Kaufman's death was a homicide.
"It's a homicide until proven otherwise, is that what you said," asked Milian.
"Yes, yes," replied Chundru.
"That's like saying you're guilty until proven innocent," said Milian.
Milian also hammered at the Chundru for failing to enter a formal finding in the Kaufman case until a year and a half after her death. The ruling was issued the day the family filed a complaint with state regulators.
The defense's case revolves their argument that the police and the Medical Examiner's Office made a number of missteps in their investigation including not checking Kaufman's medical history which would have revealed she was prone to fainting spells.
The second witness called to the stand was Aventura police officer Ruben Brizuela who testified that Kaufman was overheard giving two different versions of how his wife was positioned when he discovered her in the bathroom.
Brizuela told the jury that in the first version, Kaufman said he found his wife in a kneeling position over the toilet as if she had been throwing up. In the second version Kaufman said his wife's feet were at the toilet and her neck was draped over the magazine rack; the inference being that Kaufman needed to explain the bruising on his wife's neck.
The officer said the marks on Lina Kaufman's neck were consistent with imprints caused by fingers. That subjective conclusion brought howls of protest from the defense, but the damage had already been done since the jury heard the officer's statement.
The case started in November 2007 when a hysterical Adam 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.
Prosecutor Joe Mansfield maintains Lina Kaufman was a perfectly healthy woman at the time of her death and there are several inconsistencies in Kaufman's story that he woke up and found his wife dead.
First, according to Mansfield, Kaufman was "standing in the bedroom fully dressed" when paramedics arrived at their home. Mansfield said that didn't jive with Kaufman's story in which he said woke after a night of sleep to find his wife unconscious and not breathing in the bathroom; slumped off the toilet, her neck draped on magazine rack.
Mansfield said according to police when they arrived at Kaufman residence, his car was hot to the touch which suggested that he had recently arrived home.
The defense said that the state has offered no motive, not even a vague theory, as to why Kaufman would want to kill his wife.
Kaufman, who is free on half million dollar, could be sentenced to life in prison if he is convicted.
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