Jury gets the case in dentist murder trial

March 9, 2009 9:27:46 PM PDT
A woman who hatched a plot with a relative to kill her ex-husband over a custody battle chose a public park as the crime scene so she wouldn't be suspected and planned to tape the shooting in case she was double-crossed, a prosecutor said Monday. Mazoltuv Borukhova bought a button-hole camera to film her distant cousin Mikhail Mallayev shoot her ex-husband, but she couldn't figure out how to work the camera and Mallayev fired before she arrived, prosecutor Brad Leventhal said in closing arguments of their murder trial.

Orthodontist Daniel Malakov, 34, was shot in the back by a man in a dark coat with a makeshift silencer as he dropped off his 4-year-old daughter, Michelle, to his ex-wife.

"The whole idea to do it on a Sunday morning in a park in front of people was to eliminate herself as a suspect," Leventhal told jurors. "Hide in plain sight ... Who possibly would think she was a suspect if she had it done it in front of her kid?"

Borukhova, an internist, and Mallayev have both pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the Oct. 28, 2007, death of Malakov. They face 25 years to life in prison if convicted. Jurors were sequestered Monday evening and were to resume deliberations in the morning.

Malakov had been granted temporary custody of the child a week earlier after a judge said Borukhova was hindering their relationship. Borukhova had told her ex-husband's relatives, "He took my child. It's already been decided. His days are numbered," according to Leventhal.

"She couldn't bear the fact that he was going to have custody of that little girl," the prosecutor said.

Leventhal also pointed to Borukhova's testimony that she never heard gunshots as evidence she plotted the shooting and believed a silencer would be used. Several witnesses testified they had heard shots fired.

Malleyev killed Malakov for the $20,000 that Borukhova paid him, Leventhal said.

"He was drowning in debt. And a drowning man will take any life preserver thrown to him and she threw out $20,000," Leventhal said.

Borukhova's attorney Stephen Scaring argued that no direct evidence linked his client to the killing, and said Borukhova bought a camera to document her husband's interactions with her daughter for a custody case.

Mallayev's attorney, Michael Siff, said it was impossible for the witnesses in the park to clearly see who shot Malakov.

The distant cousins exchanged 65 telephone calls in the week before the shooting, Leventhal said. Defense attorneys said the calls were about medical problems of Mallayev and his wife. Leventhal said the pair doctored records to make it appear as if Borukhova was seeing Mallayev and his wife as patients.

The slaying rocked the close-knit community of Bukharan Jews from the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan. New York is home to the largest Bukharan population in the United States. Family members from both sides packed the courtroom, some reading Scripture during proceedings, others taking notes and whispering.