Former 'Power Rangers' actor on trial for murder
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - October 7, 2008 -- The attorney for a man accused of throwing a couple off their yacht bound to an anchor told a jury Tuesday his client is guilty of those two murders and a third, but shouldn't be put to death.
"My goal is simply to save Skylar Deleon's life," defense attorney Gary Pohlson said in a 15-minute opening statement on behalf of his client.
"Skylar is guilty of all three murders," he said.
The concession is not the same as a guilty plea, however, and Pohlson said he will dispute some details of the prosecution case. The attorney indicated his client should not face the death penalty because others involved will have different outcomes of their cases. He urged life in prison without possibility of parole instead.
Deleon is accused of killing the Arizona couple, Tom and Jackie Hawks, in 2004 in order to steal their yacht, and killing another man from whom he stole thousands in 2003. He has pleaded not guilty to murder and murder for financial gain.
The defense strategy stunned Ryan Hawks, the 32-year-old son of Tom Hawks, who came to hear testimony.
"I was blown away," Ryan Hawks said. "Thank God I was sitting down."
Earlier, Orange County prosecutor Matt Murphy told jurors the couple took a cruise off Southern California thinking they were showing off their yacht, the Well Deserved, to an interested buyer and ended up pleading to be spared.
"The evidence is going to show that is how Tom and Jackie Hawks died, begging for their lives," Murphy said. "The evidence is going to show Jackie Hawks was crying and saying ... I have a grandchild. Please don't kill me."
The prosecutor graphically described the killings.
"Skylar threw the anchor overboard, the rope goes taut and it rips Tom and Jackie Hawks off that (boat)," he said.
Deleon, 29, is a former child actor who allegedly boasted that he was a star on the "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" but apparently only had a small part in one episode.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Deleon, who they say drafted a plan to kill the Hawkses after learning they were planning to sell their 55-foot yacht in November 2004 to spend more time with their baby grandson.
They say Deleon feigned interest in buying the nearly half-million-dollar yacht, then enlisted the help of two men to overpower the Hawkses on the cruise before forcing them to sign over paperwork for the yacht and killing them.
Murphy took jurors on a step-by-step outline of how the case unfolded after the Hawkses disappeared and family and friends began to frantically search for them around Newport Harbor, where they docked their boat.
Murphy said Deleon and his former wife, Jennifer Henderson, were a young couple saddled in debt and living in a converted garage, and had a bank account with only $2,619 two days before Deleon took the test cruise.
Henderson was convicted in 2006 of murder and murder for financial gain for her role in the deaths and was sentenced to two terms of life in prison without parole. Three other men have pleaded not guilty to murder and murder for financial gain and have yet to stand trial. One is expected to testify in Deleon's case.
The jury will also consider the separate murder charge in the death of a man Deleon met in a work furlough program in 2003 while serving jail time for burglary. Murphy said Deleon got $50,000 from John Jarvi, then drove down to Mexico and slashed his throat and dumped his body before coming back.
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