Australia to release all evidence to US authorities investigating honeymoon diving death case

By Kristen Gelineau, AP
Monday, September 6, 2010

Australia to give US evidence in diving death case

SYDNEY — A state government in Australia has agreed to turn over case documents to prosecutors in the U.S. hoping to charge an Alabama man with the drowning death of his wife during a honeymoon scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef.

Gabe Watson is serving an 18-month jail term in Queensland state after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the death of 26-year-old Tina Watson during a 2003 scuba diving trip. Watson is due to be released in November and will then likely be deported back to the U.S., where Alabama officials want to try him for Tina’s death.

Alabama Attorney General Troy King has said he believes that Watson devised a plot in Alabama to kill his wife on their honeymoon, which would give the state jurisdiction. He also says there are no international standards on double jeopardy that prevent the U.S. state from trying Watson again over the death.

Queensland prosecutors initially charged Watson — an experienced diver — with murdering his wife of 11 days by turning off her air supply and holding her underwater. Watson pleaded guilty to the lesser charge last year, and his sentence was blasted as far too lenient by Tina Watson’s family and Alabama authorities.

Queensland officials gave Alabama prosecutors some evidence earlier this year, but had refused to release any more documents until they were assured that Watson would not face capital charges, which carry a possible death sentence.

Australia is strongly opposed to capital punishment. Under the country’s Extradition Act, a person can’t be deported to face prosecution on a capital charge, unless there is an assurance the death penalty will not be imposed.

Tina Watson’s father, Tommy Thomas, has repeatedly accused Queensland authorities of stonewalling the Alabama investigation and refusing their repeated requests for evidence.

On Monday, Queensland Attorney General Cameron Dick said a fresh promise from King, the Alabama attorney general, that Watson won’t face the death penalty has satisfied his concerns.

“I am pleased that Mr. King has finally provided an undertaking in appropriate terms, stating that Alabama will not pursue the death penalty in any possible criminal action against David Gabriel Watson in relation to the death of his wife,” Dick said in a statement. “Queensland has always been willing to cooperate with Alabama authorities on this matter. However, we also had to ensure that our actions were consistent with Australia’s long-standing opposition to the death penalty.”

Queensland police have been instructed to hand over the evidence “as quickly as possible,” he said.

Queensland Coroner David Glasgow said a possible motive for the killing was Tina Watson’s modest life insurance policy.

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