appealing the verdict.
A 12-member jury convicted Bechler on Thursday of first-degree murder
for killing his 38-year-old wife during what was supposed to have been a
celebratory boating excursion off the Newport Beach coast more than three
Jurors also found him guilty of "lying in wait" or suddenly ambushing
his victim -- his wife. But they acquitted him of the charge that he
murdered Pegye, a successful physical therapist and businesswoman, for
The prosecution argued Bechler wanted to cash in on Pegye's
$2.5-million life insurance policy. Once sentenced on March 16, Bechler
will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of
Eric Bechler's defense attorney, John Barnett, said Friday he will
appeal the jury's decision based on jurisdiction and "corpus" issues.
Barnett submitted a motion to the Orange County Superior Court during
the trial saying the case should be dismissed because, according to
prosecution accounts, Bechler hit his wife on the head with a 35-pound
dumbbell and weighted her body into the ocean about eight to 10 miles off
the coast of Newport Beach, well outside the state's jurisdiction.
That motion, strategically submitted by Barnett right after the
prosecution rested its case, was denied by Judge Frank F. Fasel because
he said there was enough evidence that Bechler had embarked on the
murderous voyage with his wife equipped with weights, trash bags and
But Barnett still disagrees with that ruling.
"The prosecution's evidence does not prove the incident happened
within California's territorial waters," he said. According to him, the
state's jurisdiction ends within four miles of the coast.
Proving a crime happened
Another factor that is part of the appeal is the "corpus" issue -- in
other words a "body of evidence" that could be negated because of lack of
proof that a crime happened.
The law states the court should not consider any of the defendant's
statements unless there is evidence of a crime. And usually the victim's
body is the prime proof that a murder was committed.