'Honeymoon killer' Gabe Watson to stand trial for murder in US
Published 29/04/2011 | 13:55
Gabe Watson, the American man convicted in Australia of killing his wife during their 2003 honeymoon diving trip on the Great Barrier Reef, will stand trial in Alabama for her murder.
Watson's lawyers had argued that the case breached the "double jeopardy" rule, because Watson had already been prosecuted and jailed in Australia for Tina's manslaughter.
However, Tommy Nail, a judge in Alabama, denied the motion, citing several cases where defendants have been tried once in a foreign country and later in the United States and ruled that Watson, 34, must stand trial on two charges of murder later this year.
The former bubble-wrap salesman will not face the death penalty, after prosecutors agreed to settle for a maximum sentence of life in prison as part of an extradition deal with the Australian government, which will not deport anyone who faces death in their home country.
Watson was released from a jail in Queensland and deported to the US last year after serving 18 months for the manslaughter of Tina Thomas, 26, just 10 days after they were married.
Watson, who was dubbed the "Honeymoon Killer" had pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his wife in an Australian court.
Officials in Queensland had initially charged him with murder, arguing he killed Miss Thomas by turning off her air supply and holding her underwater in a "bear hug", but the charge was reduced to manslaughter. The lesser charge was strongly criticised by his wife's family and the Alabama police.
Another diver on the trip had unwittingly taken a photograph of Miss Thomas lying on the ocean floor while taking a picture of another member of the underwater excursion.
Judge Nail's decision to try Watson for murder is a victory for his wife's family, who have campaigned since her death for justice.
"That's all we ever wanted, a jury to decide this case," prosecutor Don Valeska said after the ruling.
The prosecution case alleges Watson, motivated by insurance payouts, tricked his bride into flying to Australia for their honeymoon and then murdered her during a scuba diving expedition at a shipwreck off the coast of Townsville.