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THE TRIAL OF GABE WATSON - ALABAMA - PART 1
The trial of Gabe Watson for the kidnapping and murder of Tina Watson was set to be held in the Jefferson County Criminal Courts (Mel Bailey Criminal Justice Center) in Birmingham, Alabama, starting 13 February 2012, which, by coincidence, was Tina's birthday. The judge was Tommy Nail. The lead prosecutor was Don Valeska and he was assisted by Tina Hammonds, Andrew Arrington and John Hensley.
The defence team was Brett Bloomston, Joe Basgier and Michael Hanle assisted by Garner Whatley.
The court staff were Ken Glass (Judicial Assistant), Ted Williams (Bailiff - "Put 'em in the box Ted" was Nail's request when he wanted the jury to come in) and Paula Murrell (Court Reporter).
There were press from the US and Australia. All of the TV reporters from Australia left after the first few days. The main press present for all or most of the trial were Peter Patrick from The Age in Melbourne, Tuck Thompson from the Courier Mail in Brisbane, Nikki Batiste from the US ABC 20/20 program, at least one Associated Press reporter, a local Alabama reporter and TV cameramen. I also believe that Andy Toulson from the Townsville Bulletin was there, but I think that she was not working as they would not pay her expenses. There were also other reporters present at time, including Elizabeth Vargas from the US ABC 20/20 program. The entire trial was filmed.
|Brett Bloomston and Michael Hanle outside|
the Jefferson County Court during lunch
|Joe Basgier coming out of the Jefferson County Court|
The following has been written up by me and is based on the following. The first week is from media reports as well as a summary created by the defence team. The second week is from notes I and my wife Kelly made at the time. Note that it may not be 100% accurate in terms of actual wording, but I believe the intent is correct. I was present in court from Monday 20 February 2012.
I was asked to be the defence's expert dive witness. I agreed to do this, mainly because I believed in Gabe's innocence, but also because I would hate to see something like this happen to any friend of mine and also because I did not know who else the defence could find who knew as much as I did about the whole matter.
I should make it clear that I WAS NOT paid any money at all for this. My airfares, accommodation and meals were provided for me. The accommodation and meals ended a day and a half after the trial was completed. In fact, I estimate that it cost me about $10,000 in airfares for my wife, lost wages for us both as well as other expenses and the fact that we had to stay another week in the USA before our prepaid (and virtually unchangeable) flights home.
I spent probably 500 hours on this over the previous six months, creating my web site and since early 2012 reading all the evidence that was sent to me (over 10,000 pages).
I was asked by the defence team to create questions to ask the diving witnesses and we did this. Most of these appear to have been used when questioning the diving witnesses. I was also asked to dissect and provide comments on the Police dive re-enactments. In addition, my wife Kelly McFadyen (who is a risk manager for a very large NSW government department), obtained on her own initiative the Queensland Workplace investigation papers/report into the death of Tina Watson. This was obtained (with excellent co-operation from that department) and sent to the defence. This provided some "golden bullets" for the defence that would prove to have a major impact on the effectiveness of the State's case against Gabe, especially about Wade Singleton's role in what happened.
I should also point out that before we arrived in Birmingham, neither Kelly nor I had ever spoken to Gabe or his family or his lawyers. Our only contact were two emails to Gabe's father in 2011 alerting him to my web site and numerous emails with the lawyers. I consider myself to be totally independent on this matter.
The other defence expert witness was Dr Carl Edmonds. Carl is probably the most knowledgeable dive medical expert in the world, having been the lead author of Diving and Sub-aquatic Medicine, the recognised textbook for dive medicine. Carl is also from Sydney and we had liaised a lot prior to the trial. He also provided questions for the defence, as well as commenting on the Police re-enactments.
At the trial, I was permitted to be in the court to hear all evidence, even though I was to be a witness. I sat in the public part of the court, albeit in the front row. In addition, Detective Sergeant Gary Campbell from the Queensland Police and Tommy Thomas, both State witnesses were also permitted to be in the court each day even though they had not yet given evidence.
It should also be noted that Tommy Thomas was permitted to sit with the State prosecutors, something that would never happen in an Australian court. He was sitting right next to the jury box. I also noted that every time the jury came in and out, he attempted to make eye contact with each juror. I also noted that they never once looked him back in the eye.
|The Jefferson County Court where the trial was held|
Me, Nikki Battiste (US ABC 20/20 program), Peter Patrick (The Age newspaper), Kelly
Family Attending Court
Gabe Watson had his parents David and Glenda, his brother Daniel, his wife Kim, Kim's parents and other relatives in the court virtually everyday. He also had many friends in the court.
As mentioned, Tommy Thomas was in court each day. Tina's sister, Alanda, was not in court as she was a prosecution witness and presumably was not permitted to attend. She did attend after she gave evidence. Cindy Thomas, Tina's mother' did not attend any of the trial. There were also some people who may have been friends of Tina, although they also may just have been supporters of the Thomas family. There were also a lot of school groups there at times.
DAY 1 - MONDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2012
The State withdrew the kidnapping charge. Don Valeska told reporters outside the court it was "a strategic move to simplify the case". A defence motion to produce any notes that Detective Sergeant Gary Campbell (Queensland Police) had about interviews with Tina's bridal party and other friends was granted by the judge. Judge Nail also said that the re-enactment video would be dealt with during the course of the trial (before the trial the defence had sought to have it excluded).
The rest of the day was taken up with Jury selection. During this, only four of the 76 potential jurors acknowledged that they had never heard of what had happened. Three said that Gabe had already been punished and one said he was guilty.
DAY 2 - TUESDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2012
Jury selection finalised, 8 women, 6 men (2 reserves), men and women split equal each black/white.
Andrew Arrington outlined to the jury the four elements that the State had to prove [I think these were the items I put ## before below]. ##He put emphasis on the timeline as to when Gabe started planning the honeymoon, thus hoping to prove that Alabama had jurisdiction. He also spoke about when ##Gabe had Tina begin her scuba diving lessons. Arrington dismissed the notion that the transmitter issue had relevance in the case. If the battery was in the wrong way in the computer, there would be no beeping, full stop.
Photos of Tina and Tommy Thomas (her father) at the wedding were shown as well as photos of diagrams of the Yongala wreck. He explained that Ken Snyder and Doug Milsap say "Gabe, that's bullshit". He claimed that Gabe's story kept changing, using the examples "did she knock his mask off, did she just knock it to the side" and "after Gabe fixed the mask did he grab Tina and then lose her or was she sinking already?".
Arrington said the case was about "murder for gain" with Watson wanting to collect $165,000 in life insurance benefits plus much more from legal action against a travel insurer. He raised that the life insurance and trip insurance were pecuniary gains. Also, Gabe removed Tina's wedding ring from her finger, another pecuniary gain. Gabe was a rescue diver and yet he could not rescue his wife. He also took all of Tina's belongings.
Bloomston said Tina's drowning was a "perfect storm" of tragic circumstances in which blame should be attached not to her husband, but to the difficulty of the "extremely dangerous red flag" dive on the wreck of the Yongala, the "bumbling police", the dive boat company and its trip director, Wade Singleton, who allowed Gabe and Tina to dive without an orientation dive because Tina refused it, Tina overweighting herself and an additional equipment malfunction.
Bloomston also explained the working of Gabe's dive computer, how it was in two components which each had the battery in a different way. The police didn't test the computer properly and assumed that Gabe lied. Tina, 5' 8" and weighing 130 pounds, wore 20 pounds of weight in her BCD. "She was grossly, grossly overweighted and at depth," Bloomston said. "It's all part of this perfect storm of terrible circumstances."
The jury, he said, would not hear any evidence of intentional killing. But it would hear that he had an alleged financial motive with Tina's "small" work-related life insurance police that paid out about US$33,000, the equivalent of a year's salary as well as what he might have got from a travel insurance policy claim that was denied.
"Gabe never stood to gain anything - he lost!" Bloomston told the jury.
He also talked about the highlights of the honeymoon, Sydney Opera House, aquarium and zoo. Gabe's family loved Tina too, everyone lost Tina.
Gabe kept the trip to see a show at the Opera House a surprise, they planned the trip together apart from that bit.
Wade Singleton and Mike Ball Dive Expeditions let Tina dive without an orientation dive, they are liable. He contrasted the simplicity between Blue Water quarry and Gabe's training and the complexity of diving the Yongala. Gabe's story never changed, this is about the police putting blinkers on and tailoring their investigation to only Gabe.
He is a Detective Senior Constable with the Queensland Police and interviewed Gabe Watson on 23 and 27 October 2003. He was also involved in the investigation over the years A map/diagram of the Yongala was introduced into evidence. He stated that it started as an investigation into a diving accident not a criminal investigation.
He said that every person was interviewed that night [this is not correct as at least five or six witnesses were not interviewed - some for 3.5 years]. He highlighted the difference between criminal investigation and an accidental death investigation. He identified Gabe Watson as the person of interest.
The tapes of Gabe's interviews of 22 October 2003 were played. A typed and signed synopsis of this interview was objected to and sustained. The transcript of the interview was then produced as an exhibit.
The court rose for the day.
Press Idiot Statement of the Day:
Tuck Thompson (Brisbane Courier Mail): "took his wife's engagement ring before she was buried" - Hard to take afterwards!!
DAY 3 - WEDNESDAY 15 FEBRUARY 2012
Gehringer was still on the stand. He said that Paula Snyder was there with Gabe and his overall demeanour was calm. Tina and Gabe's equipment, dive logs, accreditation cards and dive computers were all seized [again, not correct as none of Gabe's equipment apart from the wrist component of his computer was seized]. Gabe was agitated when he realised he could not have back his computer.
He said he looked at Tina's body and that Professor Williams did the autopsy. The Queensland Pathology Report, Professor Williams's autopsy report, the toxicology certificate were admitted as exhibits. Photographs of Tina's body were then produced, the defence objected to some but they were conditionally admitted.
Gehringer said that he spoke to Gabe at the viewing of Tina at the morgue and his notes of this conversation were admitted as an exhibit. These were that Gabe said "she knocked my mask off", discussions about whether the embolisms were pre or post mortem and that Gabe wanted to do another interview as he had read an article in a newspaper that said the currents were near perfect and he did not agree.
The tapes of Gabe's interview of 27 October 2003 were played and this and the transcript were produced as exhibits. There was a lot of emphasis made about whether Gabe was gesturing towards his wrist when he talked about his dive computer. The wrist component of the computer was then produced as an exhibit. Gehringer admitted Gabe was emotional one or twice during the interview.
It became a criminal investigation in 2004, Dr Stutz's statements allegedly prompted this.
Various documents from Adam White from Oceanic, including analysis, were produced as exhibits. He stated that Chris Coxon from Queensland Workplace department did analysis of the computers a month after Tina died.
There was then some questions about the dive briefing on Spoilsport the night before Tina died. Photos of the boat, Gabe's dive log book and accreditation cards were produced as exhibits as well as Oceanic manuals and Gabe and Tina's booking forms.
Gehringer said that based on his investigation, everyone was offered an orientation dive.
The jury then left the court and there was some discussion about the police running sheets for the dive re-enactments occurred. The jury came back.
Gehringer stated that resuscitation was done for 40 minutes and that Gabe requested to go to Tina once he heard she was dead. He also stated that trip insurance was purchased by Gabe.
Defence Cross Examination
Joe Basgier did the cross examination. When did he became a detective? Gehringer said 2004 but cannot remember exactly. How many investigations have you done? Off the top of my head, I do not know. Do you know about diving? Nothing. Have you been to the Yongala? No. Was Gabe calm? Yes, he did not seem dazed. Did you seize the transmitter? No.
Court ended for the day with Gehringer still in the box.
DAY 4 - THURSDAY 16 FEBRUARY 2012
Kevin Gehringer back in the box. The audio recording of the 22 October 2003 interview played. Joe Basgier pointed out that the transcript says that Gabe rated the dive as "5/10" but the recording sounds like "over a five". Also points out typos in the transcript, including "Unfortunately" in transcript but it is really "um fortunately" and "death" and it is really "depth".
The video of the 27 October 2003 interview is played and it is pointed out that Gabe does not gesture to his wrist when referring to the computer. Gehringer does not budge on this. The video shows Gabe getting emotional multiple times, especially when he is alone with his mother.
Dr Stanley Stutz
Dr Stutz is an emergency room doctor. He was diving on Jazz II.
Under questioning from Andrew Arrington, his story is similar to the latter versions of his statements. That is, diver 1 is Tina, diver 2 is Gabe, diver 1 was in distress, diver 2 came on top of her and put his arms under her armpits and it looked like he was trying to save her. They separated and diver 2 went to the surface very quickly.
Diver 1 started to sink, she was still alive. The rescue diver got her in the bear hug and brought her to the surface. It looked like diver 2 was trying to save diver 1.
Defence Cross Examination
Brett Bloomston cross examined Stutz. Diver 2's back was to Stutz and he could not see what his hands were doing. It appeared diver 2 was helping diver 1.
Stutz stated that he did not think he saw a murder and was "surprised when he found out he was testifying at a murder trial".
Snyder was a diver on Spoilsport.
Under questioning from Don Valeska, Snyder appeared and claimed over 800 dives [in 2003 he said over 500 and in 2007 over 1000] and he was a dive master. He was accepted as an expert. Rule number one was "never leave your dive buddy". There were questions about what buddy diving and buddy breathing are [not sure of the relevance of buddy breathing as this was never an issure]. He referred to the wrist piece as the dive computer.
|Ken Snyder testifies|
He said the current was running north to south. He was confused about where he entered the water saying "it's been nine years". He stated "you wouldn't want to swim against a 1 to 2 knot current in your face". He also said "a drift dive is pretty simple, you don't have to do a lot".
He then spoke about the meet and greet the night they boarded the boat. He said Tina was excited and exuberant, she was on her honeymoon. He saw them both at the briefing.
The dive briefing on the morning of the dive was then discussed. It was a complete and professional briefing. This was the last time he saw Tina alive.
After the dive someone from New Zealand said a diver was missing. Gabe was standing at the back of the boat alone. He asked Gabe "where's Tina?". He replied "She didn't come up". At this point he was going to put all his gear back on and go and find her but then learnt that a diver was sent to look for her. It was 100 feet from Spoilsport to Jazz II.
He then again questioned Gabe "What happened?". Gabe said they were 10 to 12 minutes into the dive, 20 to 30 feet down, Tina panicked, knocked his mask off, by the time he got it back on she was sinking 10 feet below him with her arms outstretched and sinking.
He then brought Doug Milsap over. Snyder said Gabe's story did not make sense. At 10 to 12 minutes into his own dive he was at 80 feet. You cannot panic and serenely sink, he calls Gabe's story "bullshit".
Snyder claimed that you do not need a mask to dive [I would call this bullshit - you could, but it would be very hard to see where you are going and impossible to read your computer]. It was Snyder's second dive where a person has died, the other one was probably a heart attack.
Snyder said a rescuer only must press a single button on a distressed diver's gear to fill a bladder with air and send the other person to the surface. "It will save their life?" asked prosecutor Don Valeska. "Absolutely," replied Mr Snyder. [wish I was there for this gem - it would probably kill the person]
Both conversations he had with Gabe were the same, but the second one had more detail. He described the current as about one knot. He was asked if Tina was grossly over weighted. This was objected to and sustained.
Defence Cross Examination
Mike Hanle cross-examined Snyder. Sndyer said he is an experienced diver but that he would not want to swim with that current in his face. He also said that he has no knowledge of what happened below the water to Tina. He also said that anyone with only 15 open water dives is not an experienced diver.
Don Valeska questioned her. The Milsaps and Snyders are best friends and have known each other for 32 years. She has completed between 326 and 340 dives. Wade Singleton discussed safety issues on the boat and the dive at the briefings. At first she said the Yongala was a rough dive and then she says it is a drift dive. At the second briefing it was described as a Red Flag Dive.
They did a backwards roll off the dinghy and she said it was cold and dark. Her maximum depth was 89 feet and time about 39 minutes. They stayed with the Milsaps the whole dive. She had a weight belt and carried about 5 to 6 lbs of weight maximum.
At the meet and greet the night they boarded the boat she met Gabe and Tina and thought Tina was adorable and glowing. They were an adorable couple and she loved Tina's southern accent. She asked if she was a "Roll Tide" or "War Eagle", replied "I am a War Eagle" [Roll Tide means a supporter of University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa Crimson Tide football team and War Eagle means a supporter of Auburn University Tigers football team].
She said she saw Gabe and Tina on the other side of the boat the morning of the dive but never saw Tina on the dive. After the dive she saw Gabe at the back of the boat with his wetsuit on. Went over and he looked panic stricken. Gabe asked for a hug and she remembered thinking "This has got to be the worst moment of his whole life".
She went to see Ken and she heard Jazz II counting off how long they have been working on Tina. She thought that she had better go and check on Gabe. She found him in a the hallway leaning on the wall in a daze. Gabe kept talking about Tina as though she was still alive. He kept repeating the story. She said that Gabe said he told Tina to put air in her BCD. He tells Paula that he felt sick because he did not know what to do, whether to stay with Tina or go for help. He hoped Tina knew he was going to get help. Paula said her mother's instincts were coming out as she was comforting Gabe.
Paula said that Dr John Downie [who was working on Tina] came and told Gabe that Tina had died. He asked to go over to see her. He also asked Paula to be his support person [this was later].
Once back on shore and at the Police station Gabe did not want to call anyone yet and instead told her about their honeymoon. The interview ended between 11:30 pm and midnight. Gabe got an inventory of what the Police were keeping. He was sombre throughout the interview and only became agitated when he discovered what the Police were keeping [like his dive computer]. She said Gabe raised his voice a little, but the Police said it was very heated.
Gabe then called his parents. He said something had happened and Tina didn't come up. He said "I'm not kidding". He asked his father to call Tommy Thomas. He said he tried to get help and that he had hurt his ears.
Gabe then went to the Holiday Inn and Paula went back to the boat. About five days later when the boat returned to port, Paula saw Gabe and his mother. Gabe told her that he had a grief counsellor. The Snyders said they would keep in touch with Gabe.
The Snyders left their number with the funeral home in case Tommy Thomas wanted to get in touch with them. Ken Snyder had business in Birmingham [this was in November] and he went and had coffee with Tommy.
Defence Cross Examination
Joe Basgier cross-examined Paula. She said she dived with 8 lbs. She said that when you are a new diver you need more weight and it takes 25 to 30 dives to figure out how to properly weight yourself. Visibility was about two car lengths. It was a challenging dive for the first five minutes. She repeated the claim that it was cold and visibility was not great.
Paula said that Gabe was crying when leaning against the wall, she thought he was in shock. In her diary she wrote that she thought Gabe wants to wake up from a horrible nightmare. Gabe was still in shock. She also thought that he was sombre and in shock when giving his interview.
Paula said she got angry with Mike Ball Dive Expeditions because they came and dropped off all of Gabe's gear at the Police station. She said Gabe needed counselling.
He was questioned by Don Valeska and was accepted as an expert witness. He has known the Snyders for 32 years and was certified as a diver in 1972 or 1973. He said your C-card [dive certification] is like a driver's licence. The current diving training does not teach sharing air [I am not sure of the relevance of this as sharing air was never needed]. He said you can leave your buddy if they are dead.
He said he was a rescue diver through PADI. He had completed over 500 dives. He knows how to assist a conscious and an unconscious diver to the surface. He wears a weight belt. To let air out of a BCD, you have to hold it (the power inflator) up over your head. All he needs is 6 to 10 lbs of weight. All you have to do is flip a little tab and your weight belt falls off.
Court adjourned for the day.
DAY 5 - FRIDAY 17 FEBRUARY 2012
|The front part of the court room|
Doug Milsap returned to the witness stand. He spoke about the dive briefings and meeting Tina and Gabe. Tina introduced herself to him. He cannot think of a longer more detailed dive briefing in his life.
He was in the second group of divers to enter the water. The current was substantial and "stiffer at the top". Visibility was fair to poor. It got better as you got deeper. At the end they did a safety stop and the current was "pretty stiff" at 30 feet.
Back on the boat, he noticed a flurry of activity. People told him to stay out of the way. Gabe was coming over in a dinghy pounding the side of the boat saying "Oh God, I lost her, she's gone".
Doug encountered Ken Snyder with Gabe. When Gabe recounted his story, Doug kept saying "Gabe, that's bullshit!". Ken said to him that this was not the time to have this discussion.
The first version of Gabe's story was that "she knocked my mask and regulator loose, when I put it all back on, I grabbed a hold of her, couldn't hold on". The second version was "I was trying to lift her".
Then there were some questions about Tina's weight. Milsap said that if she had braced herself against something, she would have 20 lbs of buoyancy weight [?]. If you hold onto a concrete block, you free fall with it "it pulls you to the bottom". He had 8 to 10 lbs of weight and 20 lbs was not overweighted [how can 10 to 12 lbs not be overweighted!!!]. To go down 10 feet would take a strong diver 1 to 2 kicks and a weak diver 2 to 3 kicks. He also said "it's all relative" when it comes to how difficult it is to dislodge a mask.
When asked about rescue skills, Milsap said "once learned, never forgotten". He also claimed that you do not get ear problems going up [this is plainly incorrect - it is called a reverse squeeze]. Milsap also said Gabe could have pressed a simple button on Tina's buoyancy vest and she would have immediately surfaced [again, if let go, this would have probably killed Tina].
Defence Cross Examination
Michael Hanle cross-examined Milsap.
Milsap did not like being referred to as Mister, "it is Doctor Milsap" [he is a dentist]. He had stated that Gabe did not appear shocked in the questioning but agreed when questioned that he had said in a statement that Gabe appeared shocked. He agreed he had no personal knowledge of what happened. He said that "the ocean is relentless, it wins everytime!"
Questioning by John Hensley. She works in human resources at Belk (formerly Parisian) where Tina worked. The Parisian's insurance policy was produced as an exhibit. She said that the period of time when Tina could have increased her insurance cover was from 17 October to 14 November. Tina had worked there for over a year. She explained the policy. She said she had no control over who was added as a beneficiary.
Defence Cross Examination
Brett Bloomston asked her questions and she stated that Tina could have changed the beneficiary from her father, Tommy Thomas, to Gabe, either on-line or manually. This could have been done at any time. She said she had never met or talked to Gabe. She did not know until this trial that Tommy was the beneficiary.
Michael Moore learnt to dive with Gabe and was his best friend.
John Hensley asked Moore when he and Gabe decided to learn to dive. He said it was 1996. He said they have been friends since the second grade. He said there are two pieces to the dive computer. The course they did was a condensed course, at a faster pace than a normal course. There was a swimming test in a pool. They completed their open water certification in the Gulf of Mexico and it was really rough. He does not recall being taught buddy breathing or buddy diving, he called it "pairing up".
|Michael Moore on the stand|
The rescue course was in Blue Water quarry. They did search patterns and an exercise where Gabe acted as a distressed diver and vice versa. They met the requirements to complete the course.
When they went to Cozumel, compared to Blue Water, which is like diving in a swimming pool with no current, it was much different. They did a drift dive where he lost a weight. Mike froze, did not know what to do and just held onto Gabe. We panicked "Uh oh what do we do now?". He said Gabe did not know what to do, they were certified rescue divers at this point.
Gabe and Mike fell out of touch.
After the honeymoon, Mike reached out to Gabe and went to his parents' house. Gabe was very emotional, he cried as he recounted the same story and said "I just didn't know what to do". Gabe did not mention the current to him.
He said that he only remembers bits and pieces of his training, but he does not remember buddy diving. If it is life or death and you cannot remedy the situation yourself, you can go to get help.
Defence Cross Examination
Brett Bloomston questioned Moore. He asked if his training mirrored Gabe's? Yes. He stated "I don't think I ever dived without Tom Jackson". The visibility was good 9 times out of 10 at Blue Water Quarry. He said that Tom Jackson rushed things and cut corners in all three classes. He said that Gabe and he were "young and dumb". Based on their rescue training, they did not know what to do to help him when in Cozumel. They froze and panicked.
Mike had the same computer as Gabe and had to take out the battery and do a hard reset to fix.
The rescue course was 80% search and 20% rescue, like hide and go seek under the water.
Gabe was in shock when he returned from honeymoon and was very emotional.
Dr Farrell Mendelsohn
He was the referring physician for Tina's heart problem. He was examined via video link.
Only thing learnt and relevant was that Tina's condition was remedied by the time she went on her honeymoon. I do not think there was any cross-eamination.
He is a lawyer at Balch and Bingham lawyers, he represented Old Republic, the travel insurers Gabe used.
Andrew Arrington asked about Gabe's claim. Langley said that it was dismissed from the Federal Court for not satisfying the minimum amount that they adjudicate on. There was a breach of contract and bad faith claim by Gabe. The transcript of Gabe's deposition interview was submitted as an exhibit. Judge Ed Ramsay's dismissal of the lawsuit in the Jefferson County Circuit Court was also tendered. Gabe had claimed $10,134.92. The claim was denied as scuba diving was not covered. He claimed that Gabe started making a claim four days after Tina died.
Defence Cross Examination
Brett Bloomston asked if it was in fact the case that Gabe called to report a death under the policy four days after the death. Agreed no claim was filed then.
The jury was then dismissed for the day and there was some discussion about the transcript of the deposition. It was agreed that some parts needed to be deleted before the jury could read.
DAY 6 - MONDAY 20 FEBRUARY 2012
Kelly and I were present in court from this point on.
He was the Oceanic technician responsible for repairs etc for a range of their equipment for all of Australia. He is now a carpenter. He was asked by police to download the information from Tina and Gabe's dive computers. Under questioning he went through that he did and the results he obtained. This was consistent with his statements and previous evidence to the coroner's inquest.
Defence Cross Examination
Brett Bloomston questioned White. White said that Gabe's computer showed 7 out of 8 bars in the ascent rate section of the computer which meant it was a very fast ascent at some time.
In response to a question, White claimed that there was a way to download more detailed information using an old DOS based computer. He said he was not asked to do this by the police [note that I do not think this is correct - that is, I do not think there is anyway to get better information from Gabe's computers].
He conceded that Gabe started his ascent sometime in the fifth minute and surfaced sometime in the seventh minute. This means ascent time could be as short as just over one minute.
Hollis is Manager and owner of Pelagic Pressure Systems. His father, Bob Hollis, owned The Anchor Shack dive shop in California. They started Oceanic and began making their own dive equipment. In 1979 Pelagic Pressure Systems was set up to make things like gauges and then later, electronic equipment like computers. They now make computers for Oceanic as well as numerous other companies, including Hollis.
There were numerous pointless questions asked, and Hollis gave a long and irrelevant reply about his history as a commercial diver. The only thing of relevance was his claim that Tina's Oceanic BCD had a lift capacity of 35 lbs [at least this is what I thought he said, in cross examination 32 lbs was used]. He explained that to come up with this figure, they filled the BCD with air with no-one in it and then added lead weight till the BCD sank.
NOTE: When he said that the BCD had 35 lbs lift, I knew this was incorrect. I sent a note to the defence team that he needed to be asked "Isn't it true that the XS (extra small) BCD (that Tina wore) only had 19 lbs lift?" [note that in May 2012 I found out that it was actually an S - small - size and that the lift was 21 lbs].
Defence Cross Examination
Brett Bloomston cross-examined Hollis. He asked how long it would take to inflate fully a BCD. After a lot of thinking, he said 15 seconds. I do not recall if this was meant to be at the surface or at 50 feet. Does not your web site state that XS female BCDs only have a lift capacity of 19 lbs? Well, if it was an XS, that may be the case. What would happen if a diver with 20 lbs of weight attempted to use it? Could only lift 19 lbs [this refers to the weight of her tank, regs, lead weights less the buoyancy of her wetsuit - in this case it was over 20lbs].
Amanda was Tina's best friend.
She basically repeated what she had said in her statement and at the coroner's inquest. She claimed that Tina and Gabe broke up before the engagement [this was new - Gabe denied to me that they had broken up]. The main thing was that she said Tina was not comfortable in water and would rather sunbake than swim. She also said that at the funeral home when viewing Tina, Gabe said something like "at least her breasts are perky" [Gabe also denied saying this and this was the first ever mention of this in any statement].
Defence Cross Examination
Did she know Tina and Gabe bought a house with a swimming pool? Yes.
Break for lunch.
Uzi was the videographer on Spoilsport.
Said he was born in Israel and lives in Australia. He is now a self-employed gardener. He became an instructor in 1994 and claimed to have done 10,000 dives. He said he was the nominated rescue diver for the dive.
He was on the deck when Gabe and Tina came back after the first dive attempt. Gabe mentioned something about a problem and asked him for a coin. He gave Gabe one.
When a report of a missing diver came, he grabbed his gear and jumped in a tender. He was taken towards the Jazz II which was near the diver access point. He claimed to have jumped into the water before Wade Singleton surfaced with Tina as he could see them underwater.
He assisted pulling Tina up onto Jazz II. He did the breathing in the CPR except when Tina vomited on him. He also said that Tina said she was tired when she came back from the first dive attempt. He stated that no water came out of Tina's mouth when they were doing CPR.
Defence Cross Examination
Brett Bloomston showed Barnai his first statement where he said that Tina was not tired. Agreed that the statement was probably correct. He then asked Barnai about his answer to the State's question that there was no water from Tina's mouth when they were doing CPR. Agreed again that the statement that says there was a lot of water was correct.
Was the trip director on Spoilsport and is now a paramedic. Lives in Brisbane.
Note: I have access to the full transcript of Singleton's evidence and have updated this section to include in spots direct quotes.
Under questioning by Tina Hammonds he went through the procedure when boarding the boat, the briefings, the interviews of divers. He said he did not ask about Gabe and Tina's experience. The following is a direct quote: Now, tell me, that morning, were there any test divers sent down to check the conditions? There was. My dive master and one of my volunteer crew members were sent down the
first thing in the morning, which I believe was approximately 6:30, 7:00 o'clock in the morning. And their job was to go down and set up our dive site and to come back and report on the conditions of the Yongala. And did you receive a report about the conditions? I did. And? The conditions -- as I said, all conditions were good. The only adverse condition that came back us was that there was a strong current. Would it have been too strong of a current to
send the fare-paying divers in on? No. But it was pretty rough that morning? It was a strong current. But after talking with my dive master on the conditions, then we decided the best thing to do was to conduct a drift dive which would then get fare-paying passengers to use the dive and make it simple dive, and that way they didn't have to swim against current.
|Wade Singleton and Tommy Thomas after Singleton gave evidence|
There were questions about dive briefings and dive plans. The following are direct quotes: What is an orientation dive? Orientation dive is a dive that the company did for those scuba divers who were either very inexperienced divers, they may have been very nervous divers, may have been anxious about this particular dive. It may also be divers that have a lot of experience but haven't dived in quite a while so might be rusty in their skills. It was also for people that who just wanted to go with a dive master or a dive instructor to have the interesting points pointed out to them. When you had your interview with Gabe and Tina, did you discuss these orientation dives? I did. What versions of orientation dives were offered? Because Tina was a relatively new diver, she was offered a night dive orientation because she had never done a night dive. She was also offered a wreck slash reef orientation dive because she had done a minimal amount of dives. So it was beneficial for her to come on that dive with us. And was this the night before or the morning? This was offered the night before during the interview. That was when it was first discussed, first offered and then again the following morning at the orientation dives when I read the roll call to those people that were doing the orientation dives. And then when I went to do the orientation dive brief, Tina was not there. So I came back down on the dive deck and again offered that dive to them. So on your notations from the night before, you had included Tina in the orientation dive for the next morning? Yes. So when you went to give the second orientation to those divers who were to have an orientation dive, was she present? No. What did you do at that point? I stopped the orientation dive briefing and went to the dive deck to talk to Tina to see if she was coming on the orientation dive. And were you able to find Tina and Gabe? I was. Were they together? Yes. And were you able to discuss the orientation
dive at that time? I did. And what happened? Tina reminded me that she wasn't doing the orientation dive with me. She said that we had discussed it. And that last night she had said that they were not going to do the orientation dive. And she actually went further to say, "Remember, I'm doing the night dive with you. And if you get scared, I was going to hold your hand." So she made a bit of a joke about the fact that she wasn't coming on the orientation dive. Did it bother you that she was declining the orientation dive? I wouldn't say it bothered me. No, it didn't bother me. It would have been preferred. But people have refused orientation dives before, so it was nothing out of the norm. Did the appearance of her dive buddy have anything to do with your decision to allow her to go forward? Yes. Explain that. The fact that her dive buddy was a rescue diver, that he had done a number of dives, that he had done deep dives, he was rescue diver, that he was comfortable with his diving and the fact that of both of them had said that they were comfortable diving with each other and didn't need the orientation dive.
After a break, he said that when he dived the current had decreased from what his instructor had reported when they set up lines and safety tanks earlier in the morning.
There were questions about the first dive and what happened before he entered the water. The following are direct quotes: If someone had entered the water on their dive and their air actually was turned off in the dive tank, how quickly would you be able to determine that had occurred? You would determine that on the surface, because just prior to going underwater, they're going to put their regulator in their mouth and they're going to start breathing on that straight away. So they would actually realize that their air is turned off before they put their head under the water. And if per chance they made it into the water not having done that, how far would they make it underwater with the air in their hoses? Maybe a foot before you realize that you have no air. So no way you could dive for five minutes and the figure out that somehow your air had been turned off? No.
He said that he was at about 22 metres when he spotted Tina. Tina was 15 metres (50 feet) off the wreck. Her mask was on, her regulator in her mouth and her eyes were open. There was no reaction when she was shaken. He dropped his weight belt then inflated Tina's BCD. He said she was just forward of the forward cargo hold. They showed a blow up of a computerised diagram, but where he pointed was not visible to me.
He repeated that she was 15 to 16 metres off the wreck, said the wreck is 100 feet deep. The State then measured 50 feet and 90 feet in the court [no idea why as they never used this again]. There were more questions about the ascent and getting Tina onto the back deck of Jazz II.
The following are direct quotes: Did you have an opportunity to look at any of
Tina's equipment before you left to go back to the Spoilsport? I did. Tell us about what you were able to note from her equipment. Just with Tina's gear being on the back of the dive deck, I just gave it a quick check over, and it was basically to check that there was nothing wrong with it. I had a look to see how much air was left in the tank to see if that may have given a problem. I also had a look to see if the tank was turned off or on. What did you determine? The tank was turned on which I had already determined basically from the rescue where I
had used her tank and her air and then having a look at her high pressure gauge that she had approximately 2,000 PSI left in her tank, which would equate to approximately -- it was two-thirds full.
There there were a series of questions about what Gabe had told him about what had happened. A couple of these were about his mask and regulator. The following is a direct quote: Did he ever give an indication that his mask was knocked completely off and he had to swim to retrieve it or anything along those lines? I don't recall him saying that it was knocked off and he had to retrieve it. But I do
remember him saying that it was dislodged and he had to correct it. So whether it was knocked off or just misplaced, I'm not sure. But he did say he had to correct his mask.
At this time the jury was sent out as it became apparent that the State intended to try and introduce the dive re-enactments as evidence. Then, Singleton was sent out as well and Joshua Kinghorn brought in. The jury was sent home for the day when it became apparent the arguments would last till late.
The jury was still out of the court. Kinghorn was a Queensland Police officer in 2007 but is now an Australian Federal Police officer.
He said that he started diving when he was 19 and did his advanced divers when 22. He joined the Northern Territory Police in 1998 and was a general duties officer for three years and then a detective for two years. He then joined the Queensland Police. He indicated once in the Queensland Police he did a commercial diving course run by the New South Wales Police and became a Queensland Police diver.
He said that he used Gabe's statement rather than Singleton's statement to work out the re-enactment. Did you use Gary Stempler's evidence about the distance from the wreck to Tina? No. Did you use the evidence from the many Jazz II divers about where the belt was on the sand? No, did not use.
At some time Judge Nail asked Kinghorn what weight he was when he did the re-enactment. He said 77 kilograms. Judge Nail then said Tina was 63 kgs, a big difference. He then made a comment that even he knows this makes a difference to a person's bouyancy.
Defence Cross Examination
He was asked why he said statements by Gabe about the dive were lies when they had not even yet tested these via the re-enactments. Kinghorn did not really answer.
Judge Nail stated that it was too complex and there were too many variables involved and these were substantial. He said that a recent case with a much simpler re-enactment had been overturned on appeal. At some time, either now or the following morning, he stated that even he knew that women and men have different physiologies, men have more muscle and women more fat, and that even he knew this affected a diver's natural buoyancy. He said he could not understand how the Queensland Police thought that using a man to play Tina in the re-enactment was going to make it an authentic re-enactment.
He indicated that it was likely he was going to reject the re-enactments. The State gave him some cases to review. He said he would advise tomorrow of his decision.
Press Misreporting of the day:
Once again goes to Tuck Thompson, who said Uzi Barnai and Wade Singleton said little water came out of Tina's mouth but then did not report that Barnai later agreed that his statements said a lot of water came out. He also prominently reported the "perky breasts" comment by Amanda Lorenz Phillips.
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