Were the victims still alive when they were thrown overboard, is the question now ringing in the jury's heads.
Kirby Archer, 36, of Strawberry, Ark., pled guilty and admitted to murdering Miami Beach boat captain, Jake Branam and his wife Kelley. Archer is awaiting his sentencing.
Meanwhile the trial began Sept. 15 in Miami federal court for the other alleged gunman, Guillermo Zarbozo, 20, of Hialeah. Archer claimed in his confession that Zarbozo shot and killed the other crew members, Scott Gamble, 35, the captain's half brother, and Samuel Kairy, 27, both of Miami Beach.
Sept. 22, 2007, Archer and Zarabozo hired the "Joe Cool" crew for a one-way charter to Bimini. According to Archer's confession, just before hitting Cuban waters he and Zarabozo shot and killed Branam and his wife on the fly bridge of the boat. Archer said Zarabozo then opened fire on the remaining two crew members in the cabin below.
According to Florida newspapers, the prosecution kicked off the trial painting Zarabozo as a willing participant, not a gullible young man under the influence of his older accomplice.
Zarabozo is being charged with murder, kidnapping and robbery. Zarabozo still maintains his innocence in the killings, but faces life in prison if convicted.
According to reports, Assistant Public Defender Anthony Natale painted a different picture of Zarabozo. The defense said the young man was fooled by Archer's claim of being a high-level security officer and having contract work for the C.I.A. Natale told the jury, Archer's 6-foot military build from his days in the Army allowed him to play the part well. "This young man is gullible and naive and easily impressed and he has a Hollywood idea of police work," Natale told jurors. "One thing a predator knows is his prey," Natale said of Archer.
When the trial continued Sept. 16 the most shocking testimony of the trial thus far was heard when FBI Special Agent David Nunez was questioned by prosecutors. Nunez told of the "hard-to-believe" story Zarabozo had given him during interrogation.
The Florida newspapers said, Nunez testified that Zarabozo had told him, under questioning, of a highjacking by gunmen who killed all aboard except Zarabozo and Archer. According to reports, Zarabozo said he thought the pirates of the sea had spared his life because he too was Cuban and he had spoken for Archer.
"Mr. Zarabozo told me the captain was still alive when he threw him overboard," Nunez said. "He was stoic. He acted calm and cool, just like he is now," Nunez said of Zarabozo's reaction when giving the statement about throwing the body into the ocean.
According to the report, Zarabozo told Nunez the pirates told him as they jumped onto another vessel, "You're on your own."
It was reported that Archer gave similar details of the hijacking but in his version Kelly Branam was the one still alive when Zarabozo threw her overboard. This testimony left jurors wondering if all the victims were still alive when they were dumped into the ocean.
Nunez said Archer acted odd when he told how the woman had been shot by the hijackers after she became hysterical when her husband was shot.
"Archer began nervously laughing," Nunez said when cross examined by one of Zarabozo's attorneys. "I asked him if he thought that was funny, and he just kept laughing."
Zarabozo's attorneys, trying diligently to portray Archer as the bad guy, claimed the real killer of the "Joe Cool" crew was Archer. They said Archer was a man on the run from the law and wanting to get to Cuba, where he had been stationed at Guantanamo Naval Base during his years in the U.S. Army.
During the trial Sept. 18, the prosecution called their key witness to the stand, Carlos Mulet, 28. Mulet testified that he had witnessed Archer and Zarabozo planning the highjacking.
"I'm probably the only other person who knows about this case," Mulet said. It is reported that Mulet agreed to testify in the trial after he was arrested for running a chop shop in the wake of the Joe Cool tragedy.
While Mulet is not being charged in the Joe Cool case he said he was the one who introduced Archer and Zarabozo. Mulet said Archer claimed to have a career in security like Zarabozo, so Mulet saw fit to give Archer, Zarabozo's phone number.
Mulet claims Archer and Zarabozo became inseparable and later came up with a plan to steal a "60 to 70 foot boat that could take heavy seas and go fast."
Mulet reportedly said Archer asked him to teach them how to walk into a local marina, sneak into a docked boat and get away. Mulet said Archer described this as "Plan A."
"Plan B," was Archer's plan to charter and hijack a boat, Mulet reported to the police.
Mulet claims Archer and Zarabozo invited him to join the plan but Mulet didn't feel the two gave enough details. "Guillermo (Zarabozo) told me he would make approximately $1 million on this job," Mulet testified.
Mulet reportedly said what he and Zarabozo didn't know was Archer was on the run from the law. Mulet told the prosecution he helped the two because Archer had told him he would purge Mulet's bad traffic record.
It was reported that Zarabozo called Mulet's office to arrange for Archer to purchase an illegal weapon from someone. Mulet also said Archer announced he was switching to plan B.
The report said Zarabozo left a message on Mulet's cell phone stating they had left and asking Mulet to please pick up his car.
It is reportedly thought by Florida newspapers who have been attending the trial that the prosecution will would Sept. 19.
The defense will then get their turn to try to wipe away the images of two people being thrown to sea still alive and badly wounded that the prosecution painted in the jury's heads.
The trial was expected to continue this week in Florida.