Friday, 20 February 2009
John Fitzgerald Kennedy committed multiple murders for financial gain, special circumstances that qualify him for a potential death penalty.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy sat with his hands folded on the counsel table when he learned that the six-man, six-woman jury also determined that he committed multiple murders for financial gain, special circumstances that qualify him for a potential death penalty.Reputed Long Beach street gang member showed no emotion Thursday when an Orange County jury – after less than three hours of deliberations – convicted him of two counts of first-degree murder for his role in the murders at sea of yacht owners Thomas and Jackie Hawks.Jurors will return to Superior Court Judge Frank F. Fasel's 9th floor courtroom on Monday to hear additional testimony to help them decide if Kennedy should get death, or life without the possibility of parole.Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy said he will see to introduce evidence about Kennedy's prior criminal record, including a 1988 attempted gang murder. The prosecutor said he will also call to the witness stand some of Thomas and Jackie Hawks' family to show the impact that their deaths have had on others. "We're looking forward to Monday," Murphy said.Defense attorney Winston Keith McKesson said he was disappointed with the outcome of the guilt/innocence phase, especially the speed of the deliberations. "Deliberating for three hours is really not deliberating at all," McKesson said. "I don't believe they carefully considered the evidence from both sides."
Kennedy is the third defendant to be convicted in connection with the Nov. 15, 2004 murders of the Hawkses, who were forced to sign sales documents for their yacht, the Well Deserved, before they were tied to an anchor and thrown overboard somewhere near Santa Catalina Island.Murphy argued that Kennedy was hired at the last minute by mastermind Skylar Deleon to help subdue Thomas Hawks, a 57-year-old former probation officer who was a serious weight lifter.
Deleon, 29, of Long Beach, was convicted last year and is awaiting a likely death sentence on March 20.His former wife, Jennifer Henderson Deleon, 28, was convicted in 2006 and has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for her role in putting the Hawks at ease so they would agree to go on the final cruise with her husband and the menacing-looking Kennedy.Kennedy testified on his own behalf last week and claimed he was not on the yacht, had never actually been to Newport Beach, and had never met Skylar Deleon until both were charged with the murders.But Murphy countered with key witness and co-conspirator Alonso Machain, one of five people charged in the case. Machain, 25, of Pico Rivera, who is cooperating with authorities in hopes of getting leniency later, positively identified Kennedy as the bulky man who agreed to go along on the murderous mission on Nov. 15, 2004, after another gang member backed out at the last minute.Murphy also called Myron Sandora Gardner, Sr., another alleged co-conspirator hoping for leniency later, to the witness stand. Gardner, 45, of Long Beach, said he introduced Kennedy to Deleon on the day of the murders.
The Hawkses retired in 2002 to cruise the seas around California and Mexico aboard the aptly named Well Deserved, a 55-foot trawler. But they decided to sell the yacht in the fall of 2004 to return to Prescott, Ariz., so they could spend more time with a new grandchild.They were surprised when they quickly found what they believed was a serious buyer: Skylar Deleon, a young man with a pregnant wife and infant daughter who claimed he was a successful former child actor who could buy the yacht for cash.But Deleon, who only appeared in two nonspeaking roles in the television show Power Rangers, and his wife were deeply in debt and had no cash or assets to buy the Well Deserved. Instead, Murphy contended during the three trials, Deleon intended to steal the boat, killing the Hawkses in the process.Deleon needed a big guy like Kennedy, Murphy contended, after seeing Thomas Hawks for the first time and realizing that Hawks was a physically fit weightlifter who could put up a fight if cornered.Machain testified during the three trials that Kennedy and Deleon caught Thomas Hawks by surprise below deck. Kennedy, Machain said, got Hawks in a headlock and Deleon used a Taser gun to subdue him. Hawks was then placed in handcuffs.When Thomas Hawks retaliated later after he and his wife were tied to the anchor, delivering a swift back kick into Deleon's groin, Kennedy decked Hawks with a powerful punch to the face, Machain testified.Then Deleon threw the 60-pound anchor overboard, yanking Thomas and Jackie Hawks to their deaths, Machain testified.
Their bodies have never been recovered.