‘No death penalty’ over Barrier Reef death

Alabama’s attorney general says he won’t seek the death penalty if a man is tried in the US for the death of his wife while scuba diving in Australia during their honeymoon.

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In a letter to Queensland Attorney General Cameron Dick, Alabama Attorney General Troy King said the state of Alabama would seek no punishment greater than life without parole against Gabe Watson, who formerly lived in Hoover, Alabama.

Watson pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Australia over the 2003 death of his wife, Tina Watson.

Under the Australian Extradition Act, a person cannot be deported to face prosecution on a capital charge, unless there is assurance the death penalty will not be imposed.

In the letter, King made it clear that he did not plan to abandon efforts to prosecute Watson in Alabama, despite arguments by Watson’s lawyer that he cannot be tried a second time for an offence for which he already stood trial in another country.

Alabama authorities have not yet charged Watson.

King’s letter said Alabama will proceed “with determining whether sufficient evidence exists to bring and prosecute charges against Gabe Watson in our state”.

Prosecutors in Australia initially charged Watson with murdering his wife by turning off her air supply and holding her underwater as they dived on the Great Barrier Reef.

Watson pleaded guilty to the lesser manslaughter charge in June and received a one-year term, angering Tina Watson’s family. It was later lengthened to 18 months.

Gabe Watson claims he went for help, rather than try to rescue her himself, when he saw she was having trouble on the dive. He is to be released in November.

King will be leaving office in January. He was defeated in the June 1 Republican primary in his bid for another term.

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