Bechler attorney asks for dismissal

Deepa Bharath

SANTA ANA -- A Superior Court judge will decide today whether to

dismiss the Eric Bechler murder case.

In a surprise move Wednesday afternoon, Bechler's defense attorney,

John Barnett, submitted a brief asking the court to throw out the case

based on the argument that the prosecution had not provided any evidence

to prove the crime was committed in California.

Prosecutors have charged Bechler with killing his 38-year-old wife,

Pegye, by hitting her on the head and dumping her body in the Pacific

Ocean during a boating trip off the coast of Newport Beach in 1997.

Bechler has pleaded not guilty, saying his wife fell off the boat when

it was hit by a giant wave. She was driving their rented speedboat while

towing him on a bodyboard, he said.

The 15-page brief, submitted by Barnett after the prosecution rested,

cites several cases that Barnett said demonstrate a crime must be

committed, or at least an attempt must have been made to commit that

crime, within a state's jurisdiction for that state to have authority to

prosecute.

"Preparation is not an attempt," he argued. "A crime doesn't start by

someone renting a boat or driving a boat. Those acts constitute

preparation, as opposed to an attempt."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Jim Mulgrew said all the acts the prosecution said

Bechler performed -- renting the boat, picking up a bodyboard, buying

trash bags in which to stuff his wife's body, packing dumbbells to weigh

her down -- were in themselves an attempt to kill.

Mulgrew said the prosecution had established through evidence and

testimony that Bechler had conspired to murder his wife, he had been

"lying in wait" and had launched a "surprise attack."

Barnett said he timed the submission of the brief so the court would

receive it after the prosecution rested its case. The prosecution

finished presenting its last witness before the court took its lunch

recess. Barnett submitted the motion soon after the recess and after

confirming that the prosecution had rested.

"If I had presented it pretrial, the court would have denied it, not

having heard the evidence," he said.

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