Lawyer: honeymoon death suspect not expert rescuer - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Lawyer: honeymoon death suspect not expert rescuer

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FILE - In this undated file photo released by Townsville Coroners Court on June 20, 2008, Gabe Watson, left, and his wife, Tina, pose on their engagement. (AP Photo/Townsville Coroners Court, File) FILE - In this undated file photo released by Townsville Coroners Court on June 20, 2008, Gabe Watson, left, and his wife, Tina, pose on their engagement. (AP Photo/Townsville Coroners Court, File)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- An accomplished diver charged with murder in Alabama in the honeymoon death of his wife had been certified in rescues, but had little formal training, his attorney said Friday.

Gabe Watson served 18 months in an Australian prison for not doing enough to save his wife in 2003, but now faces more serious charges in Alabama. Prosecutors believe he hatched the plan to kill his wife, Tina Watson, 26, in Alabama before the trip.

Watson's attorney said his client had only taken a short rescue certification class two years before the newlyweds' scuba dive along the Great Barrier Reef.

"It was a half-day class," attorney Joseph Basgier told CBS's "Early Show." "He had never participated in a rescue dive before. He wasn't an expert rescuer. He had never done it, and he was scared, too. This was his new wife."

In 2009, Gabe Watson - who had remarried - traveled to Australia to face trial. Officials in Queensland state argued he killed his wife by turning off her air supply and holding her underwater.

Queensland Coroner David Glasgow said a possible motive for the killing was Tina Watson's modest life insurance policy. Another attorney for Watson, Brett Bloomston, said a $33,000 insurance payment was made to Tina Watson's father, not her husband.

Tina Watson's father said his daughter told him before she died that Gabe Watson wanted her to increase the value of her life insurance policy and name her husband as the beneficiary.

Watson, 33, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, a punishment Alabama Attorney General Troy King said was too lenient.

He arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday after he was deported from Melbourne, Australia. He is expected back in Alabama early next week after a court appearance in California, King said.

Gabe Watson had been in immigration custody since completing a prison sentence earlier this month. Australia, a staunch opponent of capital punishment, delayed his deportation until it received a pledge that U.S. authorities would not seek the death penalty.

"The Australians extorted from the state and the victim's family to water down our justice, just like they watered down theirs," King said.

Gabe Watson will not fight extradition to Alabama because he wants to be home with friends and family, Bloomston said.

Watson was indicted by an Alabama grand jury on capital murder in the course of kidnapping, and capital murder for pecuniary gain, prosecutors said. The charges were sealed until Watson reached the United States, and King refused to discuss the evidence in the case in detail.

He said prosecutors believe Watson came up with a plan to kill his wife while they were in Alabama, which gives the state jurisdiction over her death.

"We're obviously anxious to get him back to Alabama," King said.

Bloomston said denies deliberately trying to kill his wife.

"It's as ludicrous as it sounds for the prosecutor to allege that he traveled halfway around the world, was married to her for 11 days and committed this offense for either financial gain or any other reason," Bloomston said.

Tommy Thomas, the 55-year-old father of Watson's late wife, said the upcoming court proceedings may resolve unanswered questions.

"Our focus and our goal throughout this entire ordeal has been to see justice done for Tina," Thomas said. "And the only way that we can see that happen is for him to actually for the very first time - because he's never done this - face the evidence before a jury and answer to that evidence."

King has argued there are no international standards on double jeopardy that prevent Alabama from trying Watson again over the death.


© 2010 The Associated Press.

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