The Ninth Circuit federal appellate court today handed a legal victory of sorts to the lone woman involved in the gruesome 2004 murder at sea of Thomas and Jackie Hawks in hopes of stealing the couple's 55-foot, Newport Beach-based yacht.
The panel ruled that U.S. District Court Judge Philip S. Gutierrez improperly dismissed a 2011 appeal by Jennifer Lynn Henderson (AKA Jennifer DeLeon), and they ordered her complaint of a tainted trial and conviction reinstated.
Henderson is serving two consecutive life sentences without the possibility for parole for her role in the notorious crime that ended with the Hawks, a retired couple, tied to their yacht's anchor and tossed overboard alive in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast.
Sklyar DeLeon--Henderson's onetime husband, a former Mighty Morphin Power Rangers actor and mastermind of the crime--received the death penalty in Orange County Superior Court after acclaimed homicide prosecutor Matt Murphy and Newport Beach Police Department detectives presented their overwhelming evidence.
(Two hoodlums--Alonso Machain and John Kennedy--were also convicted in the case that received widespread national TV attention.)
Henderson's complaints about her convictions include: introduction of inadmissible evidence, due process violations, prosecutorial errors and faulty jury instructions by Frank F. Fasel, one of the county's most respected judges who has since retired.
Justices at the California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana have already considered and rejected most of Henderson's complaints.
The 31-year-old killer, who was convicted by a jury in 2007, is presently residing inside the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla.