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Death penalty hampers US honeymoon death probe

Death penalty hampers US honeymoon death probe

The Queensland Government's refusal to provide US authorities with evidence relating to the death of honeymoon dive victim Tina Watson is not an obstruction of justice, according to the…

The Queensland Government's refusal to provide US authorities with evidence relating to the death of honeymoon dive victim Tina Watson is not an obstruction of justice, according to the Queensland Attorney-General.

Attorney-General Cameron Dick has refused to hand over all of the evidence - gathered during investigations by Australian police, which led to Tina Watson's husband Gabe Watson being convicted of manslaughter - until assurances are given that he will not be put to death if convicted of murder.

Dick strongly denied inferences that the Queensland Government was deliberately delaying assistance to Alabama authorities and made assurances that they were cooperating as much as possible.

"At all stages in this matter, I have responded promptly to requests from Alabama authorities," he said.

"In late January - more than six months ago - the Queensland Government also provided more than 9000 pages of material to Alabama investigators. This package of material included extracts of court proceedings, coroner's inquest transcripts and key witness statements, and should have given investigators a flying start in their enquiries."

The Alabama Attorney-General, Troy King, requested the evidence earlier this year in order to conduct a separate "review" of the matter with a view to prosecuting Gabe Watson under US law.

Dick, however, has sought a clear undertaking from the State of Alabama that it will not impose the death penalty.

"On the 9th of February this year ... I wrote to the Attorney-General of Alabama outlining, in clear terms, the undertaking sought by the Queensland Government," said Dick in a statement released today (12 August).

"For reasons known only to himself, Mr King has decided not to provide such an undertaking. Successive Australian governments of all political persuasions have opposed the death penalty, as have Queensland governments, and our position on this matter is entirely consistent with that of the Australian Government in similar cases."

According to Dick, his primary interest in the matter is to ensure that Australia's bipartisan opposition to the death penalty is maintained and that the government's actions in this case do not jeopardise any Queenslanders who may find themselves in similar situations in the future.

While King did respond to Dick's letter with an undertaking of sorts on 25 June, Dick responded to King today saying that it was not sufficient for what is required.

"Crown Law officers in Queensland and senior lawyers from the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department have advised me that the assurances contained in Mr King's letter of the 25th of June fall short of the undertaking I originally sought on behalf of the Queensland Government in February," said Dick.

"In particular, it is not clear from Mr King's letter whether his undertaking to not pursue the death penalty is binding on the Government of Alabama, or is merely a personal assurance."

Further, it is largely expected that King will no longer hold his position following elections in the state of Alabama in November this year.

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