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Honeymoon dive killer's trial date set

Honeymoon dive killer's trial date set

Convicted honeymoon dive killer Gabe Watson has been ordered to stand trial in the US for the murder of his wife, Tina.Watson was convicted of Tina's manslaughter in Townsville in 2003 but never…

Convicted honeymoon dive killer Gabe Watson has been ordered to stand trial in the US for the murder of his wife, Tina.

Watson was convicted of Tina's manslaughter in Townsville in 2003 but never stood trial for what was originally a murder charge.

A trial date of 23 May 2011 has been set by Alabama Judge Tommy Nail, and 33-year-old Watson has entered pleas of not guilty to charges of capital murder in the course of kidnapping and capital murder for pecuniary gain.

Australia-based witnesses will be flown in to Alabama to testify at the trial, which is expected to run for up to three weeks.

"We wanted a trial, we are ready to go forward and our witnesses from Australia will be here," prosecutor Don Valeska told AAP yesterday (31 January).

"We'll be ready for the trial on May 23."

Watson is accused of planning to murder his new bride before they left Alabama for their honeymoon in Queensland, with speculation that he did so to receive her life insurance pay-out. Tina died of asphyxiation while diving on the Great Barrier Reef and it was found that Watson's failure to render assistance while she was in distress resulted in her death.

Watson served an 18-month sentence in Brisbane after agreeing to a manslaughter plea deal with prosecutors, but Alabama authorities were convinced there was more to the case and proceeded to build their own case against him.

The Queensland Government refused to release evidence gathered in Australia until US authorities gave an undertaking that Watson, if found guilty of murder, would not receive the death penalty.

It is now anticipated that legal issues surrounding the case will be fought out in a motion hearing in May, with Watson's defence team hoping to persuade Judge Nail to throw out the charges.

Valeska told the AAP that if that were to happen, the state of Alabama would appeal the decision.

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