Arguments between Florida prosecutors and defense attorneys escalated into a courtroom uproar at the trial of Adam Kaufman as the defendant's sister-in-law took the stand amid accusations that his possible infidelity motivated him to kill his wife.
This is the second week of testimony in the second-degree murder trial of Kaufman, who is accused of strangling wife Eleonora Kaufman to death in their Aventura, Fla., home. The defense maintains that the real estate developer is innocent, and that his wife died from a pre-existing heart condition.
Adam Kaufman says he found his wife, 33, on the bathroom floor of the couple's home in the early morning of Nov. 7, 2007.
As Raquel Kaufman, Adam's sister-in-law, took the stand Monday in the Miami courtroom, prosecuting attorneys started to ask her whether she, her husband, Seth, and Adam Kaufman had gone on a group date with another woman. The question quickly raised objections from the defense, forcing Judge Bronwyn Miller to send the jury out of the courtroom.
Prosecutors argued to the judge that Adam Kaufman's possible motive was lust, and claimed that he started seeing another woman just after his wife died.
"Here he's asking this girl out with his dead wife's wedding ring on his finger, the next month, December of '07," prosecutor Matthew Baldwin said when the jury was not present. "By January, February, they're having regular sex. He was not exactly devastated by his wife's passing. I mean, the best analogy I can think of is when Casey Anthony [got a] a tattoo."
The mention of Casey Anthony, who was acquitted of murdering her 2-year-old daughter Caylee last summer, drew loud objections from the defense, who called the accusation slanderous. Anthony had gotten a tattoo reading "bella vita," or "beautiful life" in Italian, while her girl was still missing.
Defense attorney Bill Matthewman told Judge Miller that Adam Kaufman never had any affair outside of his marriage, and that he had been in his home for two months after his wife's death. He said that the aforementioned group outing was Raquel and Seth's way of getting him out of the house.
State prosecutors admitted they didn't have any evidence that Kaufman ever cheating on his wife before her death. Judge Miller ruled that any testimony about a possible woman that Kaufman might have been seeing was not admissible at that time, and could not be brought up in front of the jurors.
A Happy Marriage?
Two of Eleonora's good friends spoke to the jury Monday morning, called as witnesses for the prosecution. Rina Azula and Melissa Fedowitz, both longtime friends of Eleonora Kaufman, spoke to the jury about what they called a wonderful marriage between Adam and Eleonora.
"They were good together," Azula told the court, adding that Eleonora exercised and was in "supreme" health.
Questions about Eleonora's medical history came up again as the prosecution tried to end the defense's claim that she died of a pre-existing heart condition.
"We would rollerblade together, she would come to spinning classes with me, [doing] a very high intensity workout," Fedowitz said, adding that Eleonora never complained of a shortness of breath.
Dr. Bruce Hyma, the chief medical examiner in Miami-Dade County, discussed everything he could think of that could have been responsible for Eleonora Kaufman's death other than a homicide, before ultimately decided she was killed. Hyman even brought up the spray-tan theory when prompted by the prosecution.
The case against Kaufman, who had two children with his wife, first gained national attention in 2009 at a bond hearing when Kaufman's lawyers initially blamed the death on a violent, allergic reaction to the spray tan she'd just gotten. Attorneys said that theory was disproved by science.
"[It] could be heavy metal in the spray tan -- arsenic or led -- so samples were sent off to the national medical services … those results were not remarkable at all," Hyman said. "They found some traces of mercury, but [they] were not over for someone living on a coastline like we are. Seafood could explain that small amount of mercury.
Hyma also explained that everything from Eleonora Kaufman's toxicology to more testing proved that she died of mechanical asphyxiation. He even stated that the scarring found in Eleonora's heart did not cause her death, or have any role in her death. The defense maintains that's what may have killed her.
"She died with the scar -- not because of it," Hyma said.
The defense team will get its chance to cross-examine Hyma on morning. The trial is expected to last several weeks.