There are two basic types of evidence presented in a criminal trial. One is direct evidence, the other is circumstantial. Direct evidence is the type that can only be attributed to you. For example, a fingerprint is direct evidence that you were somewhere and touched a surface which left a fingerprint. Since each fingerprint is unique, it cannot be attributed to anyone else. Circumstantial evidence is indirect evidence, which means it is capable of a lot of interpretations. This is the danger with circumstantial evidence. It can be construed to meet the prosecution versions of events. In light of this, the rules governing the Florida trial procedures state that at the end of all evidence, if the state relies only on circumstantial evidence, that evidence must rebut every reasonable hypothesis of innocence. If it does not, then the judge can enter a judgment of acquittal on the case, which is essentially like a dismissal. This is often referred to as the Circumstantial Evidence Rule. The lawyers at the Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Firm of Berman & Tsombanakis LLC are well versed in fighting cases based on circumstantial evidence and have had numerous successful outcomes on these type of cases.
Evidence of this type has been sensationalized lately in the Adam Kaufman trial in Miami Dade County. In that case, Mr. Kaufman woke up and found his wife slumped over in the bathroom, unresponsive and emitting a froth type substance from her mouth. Mr. Kaufman immediately called 911, and tried to revive her while waiting for the paramedics. She was later pronounced dead at Aventura hospital.
Mrs. Kaufman was a 33 year old female, seemingly in good health. The medical examiner did not enter a cause of death until nearly eighteen months later. The same exact day the Kaufman family filed a complaint with Tallahassee about the ME not determining a cause of death. The cause of death was determined to be a homicide by mechanical asphyxiation. Mr. Kaufman was arrested and charged with her death as he was the only adult in the house.
During the trial, the state admitted its evidence was circumstantial. There was no witness to this event. There was no evidence at the crime scene which showed a struggle or a fight causing death. The state relied on some markings on her neck to indicate there was foul play. The defense proffered that when the victim fell, she landed on a magazine rack which caused the indentations. There was no motive for the crime either; no evidence of affairs, no pending divorce nor any life insurance benefits. The Kaufman family had plenty of witnesses to attest to the fact that they were a happily married couple. In a rare twist, even the victim’s mother, testified on behalf of Adam Kaufman that her daughter was very happy in the marriage.
The state seemed to rely on the medical examiner and various hospital doctors and firefighters who thought certain marks on her neck appeared suspicious. In trial, the defense had hired private medical examiners who reexamined the body and found a scar on her heart. The defense experts agreed this caused the victim to suffer from myocarditis, which caused her sudden death. Although, the prosecution medical examiner admitted he had missed this scar, his position did not change.
Mr. Kaufman was found not guilty of this crime this past Tuesday, June 5th, 2012. The circumstantial evidence in this case allowed the state to interpret it as a homicide and the defense as a sudden tragic death. As one juror stated after trial, they concluded that the marks on her neck occurred during death, as when she had fallen on a magazine rack with same indentations but was not the cause of the death.