SANTA ANA, Calif. – 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."