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Question of the Day
LOS ANGELES (AP) — An Alabama man who served 18 months in Australian prison for his wife’s drowning death has returned to the United States where he could face prosecution for killing her during their 2003 honeymoon on the Great Barrier Reef, a law enforcement official said.
Gabe Watson, 33, arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday after he was deported on a commercial flight from the southern Australian city of Melbourne, and accompanied by two Immigration Department staff and three Queensland state police officers, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said.
The law enforcement official, who was not authorized to discuss the case and requested anonymity, told the Associated Press that Watson was being processed through customs and he was expected to be turned over to Los Angeles police. A watch commander for Los Angeles Police Department declined comment.
Watson pleaded guilty last year to the manslaughter of his wife of 11 days, 26-year-old Tina Watson. He had been in immigration custody since completing a prison sentence earlier this month. Australia, a stanch opponent of capital punishment, delayed his deportation until it received a pledge from the U.S. government that it would not seek the death penalty against Watson.
Prosecutors in Alabama, a pro-death penalty state, want to try him again over his wife’s death, and are expected to seek murder charges.
“He’s looking forward to returning home and successfully defending himself if there’s a trial there,” Mr. Braithwaite told the Associated Press.
Watson was dubbed the “Honeymoon Killer” by the Australian media after his wife drowned during a 2003 scuba diving trip on the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland’s tropical coast with her husband, an accomplished diver.
In 2008, the Queensland state coroner found there was sufficient evidence to charge Watson with her death, and he was officially charged with murder a few months later.
Officials in Queensland state argued he killed his wife by turning off her air supply and holding her underwater. When Watson pleaded guilty to the lesser manslaughter charge last year, he was sentenced to 18 months — a punishment Tina Watson’s family and Alabama authorities slammed as far too lenient.
Queensland Coroner David Glasgow said a possible motive for the killing was Tina Watson’s modest life insurance policy.
Alabama Attorney General Troy King has said he believes Watson devised a plot in Alabama to kill his wife on their honeymoon, which would give the U.S. state jurisdiction to charge him. Mr. King has argued there are no international standards on double jeopardy that prevent Alabama from trying Watson again over the death.
“My role has been to ensure that we fulfill our treaty obligations, we’ve done that,” Mr. Bowen told reporters in Canberra. “Double jeopardy is not covered by our treaty obligations.”
“There is various speculation about what Mr. Watson may or may not be charged with — I’ve seen some speculation that they would be different charges to what he’s been charged with in Australia — but that is not a matter the Australian government has a role in,” he said.
Under Australia’s Extradition Act, a person cannot be deported to face prosecution on a capital charge unless there is an assurance the death penalty will not be imposed.
By John McAfee
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