By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
CANNON AIR FORCE BASE — The defense attorney in the first-degree murder trial of a Cannon Air Force Base airman said the defendant was the target of a one-sided investigation.
The prosecution said during opening arguments late Wednesday afternoon circumstantial evidence will show Edward Novak II strangled and beat his wife more than three years ago.
Novak faces life in prison if convicted.
“The accused in this court martial was the last person to see Kimberly Novak alive and the first person to see her dead,” prosecutor Capt. Aaron Woodward told a panel of Air Force officers serving as a military jury.
“There will be no clear motive. … No smoking gun, no eye-witness.”
Kimberly Novak died Oct. 28, 2004, in the military housing unit she shared with her husband and infant daughter.
The defense hinted at a bungled case.
The defendant was singled out as the sole suspect immediately after he reported finding his wife’s body, and he was put through multiple, manipulative and aggressive interrogations by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, according Maj. Jeff Palomino, Edward Novak’s counsel.
“OSI presumed guilt and with tunnel vision, manufactured a case against Airman Novak,” Palomino said. “You cannot have tunnel vision because tunnel vision, it makes you miss the true picture.”
Palomino said the evidence will show when the medical examiner could not make a determination of cause of death, he classified it as strangulation and asphyxiation at the request of OSI.
He also cited delays in the collection of evidence and selective evidence collection.
Describing the Novak’s courtship, marriage and birth of their daughter, Palomino said there was no discord with the couple.
“Like most couples you know, they were not perfect, but they loved each other and they had a good life,” he said.
Testimony is expected to begin Thursday in the case. Three weeks have been set aside for the trial and approximately 50 witnesses listed for possible testimony.
The panel of court members or “jury”:
Edward Novak II elected, under military law, to be tried by a panel of officers rather than enlisted personnel.
Attorneys spent much of the day questioning potential jurors for selection.
The 12 available members were whittled down to five by afternoon, four men and one woman; there is a major, two captains and two lieutenants.