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THE TRIAL OF GABE WATSON - ALABAMA - PART 2
The trial of Gabe Watson for the kidnapping and murder of Tina Watson continues.
DAY 7 - TUESDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2012
Without the jury being present, Judge Tommy Nail advised that he would not be admitting the Queensland Police dive re-enactments carried out on the Yongala for the reasons he spoke about yesterday. The jury then came into court.
Singleton was back in the witness stand to continue from where he finished yesterday before the re-enactment discussions and questions.
State Examination Continued
Tina Hammonds questioning. He stated that he dropped the weight belt and then pushed the BCD inflator for 2 or 3 seconds to establish positive buoyancy. He said he was 10 metres off the wreck. He talked about when he went with the Police there, it was more choppy but current and visibility were the same. Said he had done 500+ dives on the Yongala. Said the 10 metres he put in his statement was a guess at the time made in a split second when on the way out to Tina. No explanation was given as to where Tina ended up apart from the above.
Defence Cross Examination
Brett Bloomston asked about the currency of skills. Is it important? Agreed that someone needed to keep up their skills. Bloomston showed him the Spoilsport dive procedures. So the Industry Code of Practice and Mike Ball's own internal documents state that the qualifications and skills of the divers must be assessed to determine whether they are able to take a particular dive, correct? Correct. He then got him to read some rules about safety. Then the code of practice, especially points 1.3.4 A and 1.3.4 D.
The following are direct quotes: And if you will, read 1.3.4(d) which is on the next page. "The employer, self-employed person, should ensure the diver supervisor access the competence of each diver prior to diving. Factors taken into account should include the recency of the diver's recreational certificate and of the last dive, the diving experience of the diver since the certificate was gained, for example, as contained in logbooks and the diver's current fitness to date. You were the diver supervisor at the time on
this vessel, were you not? Correct. So it was your duty to assess the competence of each diver prior to their dive, looking at things such as the recency of their last dive, looking at things such as their qualifications, their certifications, et
As you can see, Singleton agreed he was responsible for enforcing these. Then the Safe Scuba System (SSS) was covered. The following are direct quotes: And explain what the SSS or the Safe Scuba System is. Safe Scuba System was an internal risk management that Mike Ball employs. And basically it will assess a dive site, it will assess a diver, and then try and match up those systems to ensure that the dive suits the divers and the divers suit the dive site. So your employer had in place a protocol to use these same safety standards that the Australian Government asked you to do to ensure the safety -- that the dive and the diver mesh? Correct.
The following are direct quotes: Let's talk about the pre-dive interviews that you conducted with Gabe Watson and Tina Watson. The Safe Scuba System calls for confidentiality, basically the separation of dive buddies, the separation of husbands and wives when you do that dive interview, does it not? It does. And why is that? In some situations, you would have, if you interviewed two, you might have one person in the couple who would dominate the conversation, and they may not give the correct information or true feelings of the other diver. It's to prevent influence, correct? It's to prevent one party convincing another party of their ability to do a particular dive or something like that, isn't it? Correct. Now, that did not take place with Tina and Gabe, did it? That's correct. Tina and Gabe were interviewed together, weren't they? They were. And that's contrary to the policies in the Safe Scuba System and Mike Ball's protocol, correct? Correct.
The following are not direct quotes: Did you record their experience? Not sure he answered. Did you question Tina about the number of dives she had completed? Yes. Depth of dives? Yes. Time? No. If she had dived in the ocean as required by your rules? No. You were not aware she had never been in the ocean? No.
The following are direct quotes: Did you ask Tina about whether she had ever panicked when diving? No. Did ask if she had any problems getting her certification? No. She was a "Green diver" under the SSS? Yes. Bloomston then got him to read him booking form page 1. The following are direct quotes: And if you look on State's Exhibit 37, the form that she filled out before she dove -- I'm sorry, State's 39. Under Safe Diving Procedures and Authorization, please read number one to the ladies and gentlemen of the jury. "Procedure No. 1: Novice divers must undertake safety orientation dives. Novice divers must undertake a safety orientation dive. Now, I don't mean to be disrespectful. But does must have a different meaning in Australia? No, it doesn't.
The following are direct quotes: When you interviewed Gabe, and we established they were in the same room together, did you ask Gabe about the number of dives that he had? Yes, I did And did you ask Gabe Watson about the depth of the dives that he had? Yes, I did. Did you ask Gabe Watson about the length of the dives or how long he stayed underwater during those dives? No, I did not. Did you ask Gabe Watson about the number of open water dives or salt water dives that he had had? No. You testified yesterday that you saw that Gabe had 55 dives under his belt? Correct. Would it be important to know that only 15 of those dives were conducted in salt water or open water, and they had been conducted four and five years before this particular dive? Sorry. Would it have been important? Would it have been important? Not as important as Tina's not being done, no. Well, the protocol says that zero to 15 dives, you're green, correct? Correct. So if he's had 15 open water dives in 1998 and 1999 and had never been in the water, open water, without the supervision of a dive master, wouldn't that be important to know what his true experience is? By our standards, the fact that if you had done 50 dives, that would signify you as a red diver. Whether it was 15 in the ocean and 40 in the quarries, that doesn't make a difference. It doesn't make a difference, does it? It's the number. And if experts have testified that Gabe Watson was an inexperienced diver, would you have any reason to disagree with that? With the experts? Correct. I suppose it would be subjective as to what we're classing experienced divers. Subjective. But nonetheless, you said that Gabe Watson or you wrote him down as a red diver, correct? By our standards, our safe scuba standards, yes, he was a red diver. And you testified yesterday that because of Tina's inexperience that she may need an instructor to go with her? Correct. But an instructor did not go with her? Correct. Mike Ball's protocol that a novice diver must have a supervised open water certified diver with her didn't happen, did it? Correct.
The following are direct quotes: Now, Mike Ball's dive protocol actually calls for this orientation dive, which I am going to call a check-out dive, to measure the skills and assess whether a diver should be on that particular dive; isn't that correct? I wouldn't say it's whether they should be on the dive or not. But it's to assess their diving ability, their comfortableness. And on the bottom of that page on State's Exhibit 39, there's a box for the dive master to mark whether the diver possesses the skills to continue the dive, doesn't it? Correct. And that box on Tina's form is blank, is it not? Correct. So Mike Ball contemplates that this first dive for a novice or inexperienced diver is to determine whether they have a good grasp of their dive skills? Correct. And that was not done, was it? No. Yesterday you testified that on Tina's experience that you marked that she should have a reef slash wreck orientation, didn't you? Correct. Now, look at the form and tell me whether reef is marked on that form. It is. And tell me whether wreck, this very first dive, is marked on that form. It's not.
The following are direct quotes: And in your prior testimony in prior proceedings in Australia, you stated that Tina denied the orientation or refused the orientation? Correct. And you stated yesterday that you were not surprised or alarmed because it happens all the time, people refuse orientation dives? People will refuse. A lot of advice you can give to scuba divers, they will refuse it. But you testified yesterday that you were not alarmed that Tina refused this orientation dive because people do it all the time? Correct. And that is contrary to Mike Ball's policy, is it not? Correct. And if someone refuses an orientation dive, there's actually a form that they are supposed to fill out, basically a waiver saying I was told about the orientation dive and I refused. But Tina didn't sign that form, did she? That's correct. And Mike Ball's protocol is that if someone wants to refuse an orientation dive, that you are counseled and urged to tell them that they are not to refuse it, that it is serious stuff, but if they persist, they may sign that form, correct? Correct. But that form was never signed, was it? That's correct.
The following are not direct quotes: How many dives planned for the trip? 10 to 20 dives. What locations? Not sure. Were shallow easy dives planned? Yes. Dives with sharks? Yes. A wall dive? Yes, a wall from 5 or 10 metres to top. How deep was the wall? 1000 metres. If someone sank to the bottom, it would be hard to find the body? Yes. Why did you dive the Yongala first? The weather was good. You said that you took commercial divers out to the wreck? Yes. Did Mike Ball get a fee to take the commercial divers? I don't know. Are there benefits to go to a shallow dive site first? Did not really answer this question. Did anyone check Gabe and Tina's gear, air, weight, BCD before they entered the water? The dive master would have checked.
Currents are subjective? Yes. Then there were some questions about the second dive - the following are direct quotes: But the first two down the descent line to the dive site are Gabe and Tina, correct? Correct. And there are divers ahead of them from other boats, from your boat? From our boat, those divers by now would have been down and possibly towards the end of the wreck. Some of them may have even been starting their ascent. And there's certainly divers behind them including your group. And we've heard testimony of 30 other divers perhaps in the water, several from Jazz II? I don't believe they were in the water at that stage. I believe they are still setting up for their divers to come in. Did you see Jazz II when you got to your dive access point? I don't recall seeing Jazz II.
A number of questions were then asked if Singleton had said Tina was 10 metres off the wreck in all his statements and at the inquest in 2008 which was after he had identified the location to the Police when diving the wreck and it had been measured. Did he agree? Agreed he had said 10 metres in all.
The following are direct quotes: We're going to move on. You testified that you grabbed Tina when you saw her, and you immediately dropped your weight belt, and you filled Tina's BC with air. And you just testified to Ms. Hammonds that within two or three seconds everything was okay as far as you extracting her from the bottom; is that correct? I didn't fill her BC. But I did, in fact, put air into her BC. And it only took you two to three seconds to have enough lift in what we've already heard is a small bladder BCD, two to three seconds gave you enough lift to take you and her to the surface? Correct. And that's with my dropping of my weight belt as well. And why did you put air in her BCD? Was it because she was negatively buoyant? It was just simply to weigh in the positive buoyancy to aid in the lift. And she certainly was negatively buoyant? She was on the bottom of the ocean, wasn't she? Correct. And we've heard some testimony that there's no sensation of weight underwater. However, you were asked that question in the Coronial inquest. And you said there still is a sensation of weight underwater. If you were over weighted and your BCD is deflated, then you're definitely going to sink. And in that situation if you're holding something, it would drag you down; isn't that correct? Correct. So there certainly is a sensation of weight underwater, isn't there? There is. And if Tina was grossly over weighted and had no air in her BCD, if I were holding her, I would go down with her, wouldn't I? You would. It wouldn't feel as a weight though --
The following are not direct quotes: During the ascent did you do anything to make it safe considering it was a very quick ascent? Yes, I exhaled. Could her lungs have ruptured? Yes. What did you do to try and prevent this? I tried to open her airway. Did you purge her regulator? Yes. Would this not have prevented her exhaling? Only a short second burst. Was she exhaling? I was not looking for this.
The following are not direct quotes: You said you told Gabe that Tina was dead? Yes. Didn't Dr Downie tell Gabe? I was not aware of this.
Then there were some questions about the Workplace investigation. The following are direct quotes: And are you familiar that the Code of Practice procedures were not followed by you specifically? Correct. And that Mike Ball Dive Expeditions, according to their investigation from workplace health and safety, could be found vicariously liable for your actions? I suppose if you mention it that way, they could. Are you aware that Mike Ball Dive Expeditions actually pled guilty to the breach of standards, as we have just discussed, for your lack of supervision of Tina and Gabe in placing them in a risk and a harmful environment? I was aware they pleaded guilty. I wasn't aware for what they pleaded guilty. In placing Tina and Gabe as dive partners in the Yongala, if something happened to Gabe underwater, do you think Tina was in any position with her experience to do anything to help him? Probably not.
State Redirect Examination
The following are not direct quotes: Had Mike Ball Expeditions had divers die before? Yes, I know the details of a few, but not all. Did you ever interview divers together before? Yes, all the time. Then some incorrect things were said by the State about the number of dives used by the SSS to classify divers and that a green diver was permitted to dive with a red diver.
The following are direct quotes: So the problem was that when she declined to
dive, you never got her to sign a piece of paper saying she declined? That is correct. And then you also interviewed them together, and that was against your policy? That is correct. Is it common to interview dive buddies together despite the policy? It is. Dive buddies, dive groups would even be interviewed as a group, so yes, it was common. And I know you said that was to keep one
person from talking over the other one. Did you feel you needed to separate the two of them in order to get information? If that was ever the case, yes, I would
separate them. Did you ever separate the two of them? No. Now, the other problem was also that Tina was too low level of a diver to go out with Gabe alone? Sorry. The issue or -- The issue, the third issue that we discussed. I mean, Tina was an inexperienced diver and a new diver. She had 11 dives. She was a green diver. If it had of been someone with less experience that she was diving with, then yes, it would have been a different situation.
The following are direct quotes: If a fare-paying scuba diver declines that [orientation] dive, what action do you then take? What I should have taken was to have them
fill out a diver refusing advice form. But you can't make them take the dive if they don't want to take the dive? No.
Singleton then went on to explain that he was confident that the location that he identified as where Tina was found was accurate.
The following is a direct quote: Now, we talked a little bit about the sensation of weight. If someone were to hold a heavy object and hold it underwater, will they sink? Yes. So you can feel weight? You can feel weight, yes. And if you're on the bottom and you have to pick something up, can you feel weight? Yes.
Defence Recross Examination
The following are direct quotes: Do you know who Craig Haslett is? He is the engineer. Did he not have a potentially dangerous and deadly accident when he was found to have water in his tank when he went for a dive? I'm not aware of that. I misspoke. It's Lensing(ph). Who is Lensing? [Note is is Lemsing] Dave Lensing, he would have been the first mate, I believe. And were you aware that Mr. Lensing had a
very dangerous circumstance of having water found in his tank on the 25th of October, 2003, just three days after Tina died on this very trip? I'm not aware of that. As the dive master, you are not aware of that? No.
Bloomston showed him some papers. The following are direct quotes: Have you seen that document before? No, I have not. I'm going to show you what's been marked as Defendant's Exhibit 13 and see if you can identify what this document is? Again, it would appear to be a dive procedures memo sent to trip directors from Craig Stevens. Do you recognize that document? I can't recall it, but -- Is your signature on that document? Yes, it is. And what is that document? Just read it to us. It's short. "I have recently become aware that staff and otherwise complying with company dive procedures including trip directors. It is your responsibility to ensure that all dive procedures are complied with both staff and guests. If an accident occurs and an inquiry reveals that you not complying with these procedures, then you are leaving yourself open to litigation. This is your duty of care. It is my responsibility and duty of care to ensure the staff comply with the same procedures. Any staff not complying with these procedures must be issued with a procedural reminder." And that, in fact, says that there was a breach of one of your standards. You just testified that guests are routinely allowed to be interviewed together. And that's contrary to your standards, correct? Correct. So why do we have standards and policies in a dangerous sport of diving if we're not going to follow them? Can you answer that? No, I can't.
You testified to Ms. Hammonds' question that after Tina refused the dive orientation that you should have had her fill out the form, correct? Correct. And hindsight, shouldn't you have demanded, according to your own policies, that she take the dive orientation? I wouldn't have said demanded. I would have followed it up with I needed to fill the diver refusing advice form. Mr. Singleton, do you think that we would be here today if she was in your orientation
group on that day? MR. VALESKA: Objection. MS. HAMMONDS: He asked if she would be here today. THE COURT: I'll overrule. Can you answer that question? SINGLETON: I couldn't say either way. THE COURT: He's answered it. MR. BLOOMSTON: No further questions.
State Further Redirect Examination
The following is a direct quote: If her dive buddy had not been a red dive
buddy, would she have been allowed to go out? No.
After a short break.
Kinghorn returned to the witness stand after his short appearance yesterday when the jury was not present.
Went through similar questions to yesterday as jury did not hear them. Became a Police diver in 2006. He identified Tina's dive gear. He said he dived the wreck with her gear. It all worked okay. Said he took measurements on the wreck. Tina was identified by Singleton as being 16.6 metres from the wreck [compared to the 10 metres Singleton said in all previous statements and at the inquest].
No cross examination.
Was manager of Parisian store where Tina worked. Now a manager for Belk (which took over Parisian) in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Did you ever see Gabe Watson after Tina died? Yes. Had you ever seen him before? No. He came to see you? Yes, he came and wanted to see Tina's office to get her things and asked about her insurance. I showed him her office but it was empty as her family had already taken everything. He got angry because it was all gone. I directed him to human resources about the insurance.
Defence Cross Examination
Joe Basgier asked questions. Did you not know Tina's parents had come and collected things? No. Did you not know Tommy Thomas had already been there? No. Did you know that Gabe was the administrator of Tina's estate? No. When did Gabe come? Within a month, about a month.
Professor David Williams
Professor Williams conducted the autopsy.
Questions showed that he had over 35 years of experience in pathology, had done over 5,000 autopsies. He went through the autopsy report point by point which I will not report here [his report can be accessed via the evidence pages]. He said she may still have had circulation when on the bottom. There was water in her lungs, but no vomit in there. No evidence of heart disease. Cause of death - drowning. He said numerous times during his evidence that the cause of death was drowning. Death certificate says drowning was cause of death.
Did she have oxygen deprivation? Objected and sustained. He said drowning can be from air deprivation. Said he does not believe scuba divers pulmonary oedema exists. Oedema exists. He said he had not heard of nebulisation of sea water [both these are simply amazing statements that all dive medicine experts know exists!!! - Click here to read a 2012 paper about SDPE].
During his questioning, Prof Williams said at least a dozen times that Tina had died from drowning.
Lunch was then taken.
Defence Cross Examination
Brett Bloomston did the questioning. Was the cause of death drowning? Yes. You said you are a diver, when was your last dive? 1977. Are you trained in diving or hyperbaric medicine? No. How many scuba diving deaths have you done autopsies for? About 25, all drowned. It is not uncommon. Was a dive medical expert available? No. Do you know Dr Griffiths? Yes, he is very respected. Any reason why Dr Griffiths or any other dive medical expert was not used? Townsville is too far from where they are located. It is recommended that an autopsy be done within 8 hours of a diving death, but it was not able to be done till 22 hours after.
Bloomston showed Williams a guideline from the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia called Autopsy and the Investigation of Scuba Diving Fatalities. Asked questions and ascertained that 52 to 86% of scuba deaths caused by drownings. Eight of the references in this document are to Dr Carl Edmonds, do you know him? I know of him and have spoken to him. It says 52% overweighted, 39% panic, 37% salt water aspiration.
Did Police tell you Tina was overweighted? No. Did they tell you she had panicked underwater? I cannot recall. Did you get a form from Police with details of the incident? No. Did they tell you she died at a dangerous site in current? No. Is there anyway to indicate if arrhythmia happened? No. Was there any analysis of the gas in Tina's body? No. If there was, it could have told us if high in oxygen etc? Yes. Only checked for carbon dioxide. What would a high oxygen mean? This is indicative of resuscitation. It was possible that she had an air embolism. Have you any idea how Tina drowned? No.
Did Tina's lung burst? There were some small tears, but no big tears.
Defence Recross Examination
There is no evidence of homicide? That's correct.
Manager of the funeral home used for Tina's funeral.
You did the funeral planning for Tina? Yes, liaised with Tommy and Cindy Thomas and David Watson. The preparations and embalming were done in Australia as is required when a body is transported from one country to another. Who picked up Tina? I did. Just after Gabe got home we had a meeting with Gabe, the Thomases and the Watsons. Who had the final say about what went came in and out of the casket? Gabe. Did he have a decision to take out? Yes. The service was on Wednesday, the family normally looks at the casket before. Gabe and I were at the casket last. He placed a letter inside and took Tina's engagement ring off, but put the wedding ring back on. He agreed that it was common for spouses and other family members to take rings off loved ones. Judge Nail stated "it's not uncommon...I don't think it's unusal practice. I have my mother's rings and she died in 1976". He then asked the witness if that was in fact true? Shelton agreed "it is very common".
Around this time Nail ordered the jury out of the courtoom and proceeded to question Valeska's argument. He said "You mean to tell me that [Gabe Watson] bought the engagement ring, married her, he and his family paid for a wedding, he planned and paid for a honeymoon halfway around the world, all so he could kill her to get an engagement ring he bought in the first place? You've got an uphill struggle."
I do not seem to have recorded any cross-examination, perhaps there was none.
Sister of Tina.
She said that Tina told her pretty much everything. Would Tina tell you when things were not so good? Pretty much. In Spring 2002 she knew Tina and Gabe were dating. Gabe had the engagement ring, how long before Tina got it? There was no answer. Did you and Gabe get along? Objected and sustained. How did you find out about Tina? I arrived at work and everyone was looking strange at me. Caesar Lamonaca told her that Tina was in an accident and that she needed to call her parents. Called her mother but got no answer. Called her father. He told her Tina had drowned.
Taken by friend to mother's place. Her mother was still in bed and she told her. Phoned Glenda (Gabe's mother) who said she was on the way to Australia. She phoned her father again and then Amanda Phillips.
Later when her father arrived home the US Consulate set up a call with Gabe. How many phones in the house? Five. Did you and your father and mother get on the phone together? Yes. What did your mother say? She asked if Gabe was okay, he said yes but his ear hurt. Did she ask what happened? Gabe said did we really want to know? Yes we did. He told us that they had went down, Tina had motioned up or back and he grabbed her hand. She started grabbing at him and his mask came off, he let go and fixed mask. Tina was now sinking, arms out, she blinked, he tried to go after her but sinking too fast. He decided to go to the surface, ripping off gear as he went.
Cindy asked Gabe if he was with Tina when they were working on her. Said yes, said he never left her. Did you and Tommy speak to divers about this? Yes, Kelli Smith and her Dad Denis Duke. Did they have concerns? Objected and sustained. We spoke to Gabe later. Gabe was laughing and joking about how he would have to be dragged back kicking and screaming to Australia. Did he promise he would be on the flight with Tina's body? Objected and sustained.
The jury was then sent out of the court.
There were then discussions about questions about Gabe claiming that Tina told him on the flight to Australia about what she would like her funeral to be like. Then Judge Nail said that this was not going to be allowed. He also said that if they thought that the engagement ring was motive, they were crazy. Why would Gabe buy a ring, spend a huge amount on a trip, kill her overseas just to get the ring back? [not sure if this happened here or above as I have also put it]
The jury returned. Alanda said Gabe told her that they had to understand that he was over the grieving process.
No cross examination
Detective Senior Sergeant with Queensland Police in charge of murder investigation.
Joined Queensland Police in 1986. Who made this change from an accident investigation to a criminal investigation? It came from above. What caused this? Tommy Thomas raised insurance and Snyder contacting Tommy and Gabe's ascent rate. The ascent was normal? Objected and sustained. What other factors? They were the initial ones. It became a full blown investigation. I noticed inconsistencies and contradictions by Gabe and what others said. Did you or Queensland Police create a crime to fit the evidence? No. Also, Gabe had said they were never offered an orientation dive and Tina had bought all of her equipment [no idea why this was suspicious]. Gabe did not check Tina's gear as per the buddy system [apart from when doing a dive course, I have never seen divers check each others' gear]. Campbell said Gabe's mask was knocked off and up - says Gabe said this in his interview.
Were there other factors? Dr Stutz's statement also raised concerns. Said that on 23 October 2003 he saw Gabe and did not realise he was the husband due to his demeanour [note I have never seen any statement where Stutz said this]. The inquiry was not based on emotion.
Defence Cross Examination
Joe Basgier asked questions. Did you record the 2007 interview with Gabe and his father and lawyer without their knowledge? Agreed that he did. Did you lie to Gabe and Dad and lawyer when they asked if you were recording the interview? Yes. Did Gabe answer all your questions? Yes. The interview went for 3 hours? Yes, it was a long interview. Did you say in a statement to your superiors that this interview was substantially similar to other statements? Yes. Gabe got emotional in the interview? Yes. Gabe gave you names of other people to interview? Yes. Did you speak to these people? Yes. Is it true that you did not write up statements for all these people? Yes. Have you still not handed all your notes to the Attorney-General's? Agreed.
Gabe told you that he was never offered a day orientation? Yes, I believed that it was both. You were aware that Mike Ball Expeditions was being investigated? Yes. You said that you did not believe everything Mike Ball Expeditions told you? Yes. Chris Coxon conducted the Workplace investigations. Did you consult with him? Yes. Was the fact that Mike Ball Expeditions found guilty relevant to your investigation? Yes.
The Coxon Workplace investigation report was shown to him. He said he only saw this for the first time three days ago [that is, after Kelly got the report and I sent it to the defence who then gave it to the prosecution].
Did you check that the recording was legal in the United States? Yes. How long were you in the US? Four to five weeks. What is a statement? A typed statement. Did you refuse to take any statements? No. Did you tell anyone not to speak to the defence? No
Adjourned for the day as the State had no more witnesses available.
WEDNESDAY 22 FEBRUARY 2012
There was no court for this day as Judge Nail's wife had to have a minor operation. Kelly and I went diving in Blue Water Quarry.
DAY 8 - THURSDAY 23 FEBRUARY 2012
Before the first witness appeared, Brett Bloomston argued that Tommy Thomas's statement about Tina telling him that Gabe had asked her to increase her life insurance and change the beneficiary to Gabe was hearsay. Probably even more hearsay (if that is possible) was that Tommy claimed that Tina told him she had told Gabe that she had increased the insurance.
Judge Nail agreed "It's the rankest hearsay" and ruled that this was not admissible. The State tried to argue that Mr Thomas could talk about what he told Tina to say. There was a lot of argument on behalf of the State but Judge Nail was not moved, "You may not like my ruling" he said.
|Brett Bloomston and Michael Hanle outside|
the Jefferson County Court during lunch
|Joe Basgier coming out of the Jefferson County Court|
Tom Jackson (Jnr)
Tom Jackson was the instructor who taught both Gabe and Tina to dive and also did all Gabe's additional training. He said he started diving in 1991 and had 3000+ dives. He became a dive control specialist instructor in 1996. He said he had trained 1000 divers.
He gave evidence that he taught Gabe and Mike Moore to dive in a private course. He was asked a question about dive tables and if they taught them, answer was yes [strange and irrelevant question I thought]. He was asked why and then explained tables. Did you advise Gabe and Mike to ignore tables? No. Sharing air discussed? Yes [again, this is irrelevant as Tina was not out of air].
Did rescue class in July 1999? Not sure of date, but yes. Explained there was a lot of classroom talk, about stress and panic. He stated that the course was two to three days long. Was there a written test? Not sure. Then pool and water. He spoke about how you can assist by throwing ropes to the diver in trouble without getting in the water yourself.
Also gave evidence about how to deal with panicking diver on the surface, unconscious diver on the surface, stressed/panicked diver at depth. He stated that Gabe bought an "unconscious" diver up. Will a panicked diver crawl over you? Yes. Did you cut corners on any course? Never. Why? Peoples' lives are at stake.
Do you still teach? No, stopped just before the incident. You went to Cozumel for 10 days? Yes. Some questions then that I could not hear.
In March 2003 did you train Tina? Yes. Was there a difference in quality between private and normal classes? No. Tina took fast tracked course [no idea what this was]. How was Tina in the pool? Fine, explained mask flooding and clearing. Lots of people have issues with mask clearing? Yes. During pool was there a stress test? Had to swim 200 yards. Then Blue Water quarry. The class she was first in was a big class. When? May 2003. Did you notice Tina to be nervous? No. She removed mask and shot to the surface. Got the dive master to take her to shore. When he surfaced at the end of the class Tina had left and gone home.
He explained that he contacted Tina and spoke to her. He told her the water was cold and they discussed mask clearing. When they repeated this in early June 2003, she did the mask clearing easily. There were then some questions about Tina's death and funeral. Some discussion about skills learnt and he then retold the story as Gabe told him about what happened. This was identical to his previous statement and consistent with other stories told by Gabe, although he said Gabe told him he ruptured his ears [if this was said it was not correct].
Then there were some questions about the buddy system, including that the team leader of the buddy pair should discuss the dive plan, hand signals and check each other's equipment. Did Gabe attend Tina's training? No.
Defence Cross Examination
Brett Bloomston cross-examined Tom Jackson. Your rule was to not have spouses attend training? Yes, split them up so the spouse cannot interfere or help. Showed him a photo of Blue Water quarry and platforms, got him to explain the depths. Said cold but can be good visibility. No currents? Correct. No man eating fish? Correct. Tina panicked to surface? Yes. Not overweighted when diving Blue Water? No. If I tell you that she had only done 11 dives, would you consider her experienced? No.
Gabe did 40 dives in the quarry and 15 ocean dives, Panama City, Cozumel, and only a handful from 1999 to 2003. Would you consider Gabe experienced? He was very slow to answer but then said no. Rescue course does not hold a lot of weight does it? No. Does not enable someone to take the role of a rescuer on a boat? No. To assist dive master? Yes. Leads to dive master? Yes, helps us when lots of divers.
Is it correct that it is important to save yourself first? Yes, need to ask "Can I help this person without hurting myself". You taught Gabe to ascend if you cannot help? Yes. At depth, in a current, if mask and regulator knocked, would this be stressful? Yes. Has Gabe done any further certification? Not with me. Can skills from 1999 be lost or rusty 4 years later? Yes, I always felt that dive masters should take a refresher every year. There are two components to Gabe's dive computer, the transmitter and the wrist module. Would the both parts be referred to as a dive computer? Yes. You had the same computer? Yes. Did you ever have problems with the air tank signal not connecting? Yes, many times I set up, checked air, then jump in the water and it would not work. Would have to come up and turn on manually.
Showed him Tina's BCD, weight pockets. Was there ever an issue with this BCD? Yes, my wife had the same one and it only had 18 to 19 lbs lift. It would not hold her (wife) on the surface. You were aware that Tina had 20 lbs weight? Yes. Any comments? Overweighted real bad. Negative? Yes. Sink? Yes. Affect her ability to swim against the current? Yes. If overweighted, would this affect her ability to swim horizontally? Yes. If she was overweighted and swimming vertically, it would be harder against the current? Yes. Would you have let Gabe and Tina enter the water together on a "red" dive? No.
If your wife became distressed and sinking, would you ascend? I would try to save her. Have you ever gone in the water without knowing your PSI (tank pressure)? Yes. Describe a panicking diver? Not always full blown, but can be. Any reason why Tina would have arms out when sinking and Gabe could not rescue? No.
There was a break then so the jury could go to toilet etc. In the break, Gabe told me that Tina never said anything to him about what Tommy Thomas alleges Tina said to Tommy and what Tommy told Tina to do about the insurance.
Tommy Thomas (note Tommy Thomas died 4 November 2015 from cancer)
Don Veleska questioned him. Who were your children? Tina Mae Thomas [crying], and Alanda Thomas. You were in the military? Air force. Now? 35 years in insurance. Tina had several boyfriends? Yes. She dated Stan Marks till December 2011 till after her graduation? Yes. Did Tina know Gabe? Yes, a year or two before she broke up Gabe was in classes with Tina and he tried to get her to go out with him. She told me New Year's Day 2002 that Gabe wanted to go out with her. March 2002 she told us they were going out. A question about the engagement was objected to and sustained.
After Tina got the ring, how long was it till they started planning the wedding? Got engaged Easter Sunday 2003. Did Gabe speak to you about marrying Tina? February 2003. What was Tina's salary? $33,000. Are you aware of any life insurance Tina had through work? Yes, one times her salary. What happened to the $33,000? Went to the beneficiary of her choice. Additional insurance was available? Yes, 1 times accident, and 3 times extra. If accidental, then $165,000 approximately.
Did Gabe have life insurance? No. Did you hear Caesar Lamonaca say Gabe came to ask about insurance? This was objected to and sustained. Judge said "jury heard Lamonaca's evidence". Did Gabe ever mention scuba to you? I mentioned it to him, Gabe called me and said he had something important to ask me. Tina and Alanda had told me that they would want their potential new husband to ask face to face for their hand in marriage. Gabe said he could never get to me. When we met on the Saturday I mentioned that Tina had said that she was going to do scuba diving. Gabe said to me that if he had to do things that Tina liked, Tina had to do things he liked.
When was the last time you saw Tina alive? When getting ready to leave the reception. Did Gabe call you and tell you of Tina's death? No. How did you learn? At 8:36 am I got a call from David Watson and then was spoken to by Craig Greer (their preacher). I thought it had just happened. Later found out that it happened 9 hours earlier. When you got home who was there? Alanda, Kelli Smith and her parents Denis and Ruthie Duke who were divers and others. Got home at 1 to 2 pm. Had Gabe phoned? No. Did you or Alanda or Cindy try to contact Gabe? Yes.
Then lots of questions about what happened. These were answered as far as I can tell in a manner similar to his statement. He finally spoke to Gabe, with Alanda and Cindy listening on separate extensions. Cindy asked Gabe was he okay? Yes. Cindy asked can he tell what happened? Gabe said did we really want to know what happened? Yes, then Gabe asked dive company people to leave the room. He told the story which was the same as he has previously told in Tommy's statement and at inquest. This included the statement that he was ripping off his gear as he ascended.
A brief summary of this was that Gabe told the story of the first dive attempt exactly as all others have reported. On the second dive he said that they got to 40 feet and then went across to the wreck. Along the wreck Tina signalled to go up by using the thumbs up signal. Tommy said it was a signal to go to the surface. They got half way back to the line and she was sinking [I think this was what he said, he was very quiet]. Gabe said he signalled to Tina to use her regulator or inflator [sic], she appeared to squeeze it, back further she knocked his mask which filled with water. Gabe cleared his mask and then Tina was sinking fast. He had to make a decision to go down or surface. Went up as fast as he could, ripping off his gear as he went.
Tommy then said that Gabe said Spoilsport sent in two divers and one of these brought Tina up [this is of course not correct but at that time Gabe might have thought this]. When Gabe was going after Tina, he could see her arms, eyes. Cindy said that Tina knew Gabe was going for help. Cindy asked if he was holding her and calling to her all the time when CPR was being done and he said he was.
What else did Gabe tell you? Did he know his mother, Glenda, was on the way over to Australia? Yes, so there was no need for Tommy to come over. Gabe said he would call them. Did you say anything to Gabe about bringing Tina home? I did not want Tina to come home alone. He said he and Glenda would be with her all the way home. How did you take Gabe's story? I said I thought it sounded okay, maybe Gabe panicked. Kelli Smith [Alanda's scuba diving friend] expressed concern.
When did you next speak to Gabe? The next week. I called and spoke to him. I asked what was happening? He said he had done some more Police interviews, mentioned the autopsy, the final arrangements were not yet complete to enable Tina to be brought home. I said to call me. He said he would.
Did Gabe bring Tina home? No. Gabe called me 30 October 2003 and said he had transport arranged and would be leaving Australia on 31 October 2003 [I think these are Alabama dates]. He was travelling Townsville, to Brisbane to LA to Atlanta to Birmingham. He repeated that Gabe said he would have to be dragged back screaming and shouting to Australia.
There was a question about Gabe saying he wanted doves released at the funeral. This was objected to but overruled. Tommy said that Tina was a paid up member of an animal liberation type organisation and hated to see things like this done. Did you all get into an argument? Not really an argument. This reply was objected to and sustained but had already been said. Before funeral did Gabe ask for Tina's things? Yes. What? Not much, most things had already been moved to their new house. Mainly wedding gifts. David Watson had asked for them. After the funeral did Bob Austin contact you? Yes. Who was he? A friend/attorney of David Watson.
Were you contacted by Ken Snyder? Yes, via the funeral home. I called him a week later. Did Snyder want to meet? Yes. Why? He expressed concern about what had happened. Did he meet you? Objected and sustained. There were a few questions about what Snyder had said and this was along the lines of Snyder's testimony. After meeting with Snyder did you believe Gabe was not responsible? Objected and sustained. Tell us about a meeting of Gabe, Bob Austin and you? Objected and sustained. What did you talk about? To tell me that Gabe wanted all Tina's things. What did you tell them? Not much, I asked if they could move it all for me.
Did you say something to Gabe about Tina at this meeting? When Tina gave you the thumbs up, why did you not go up? What did he say? He said she gave the thumb back to the line, not up [note this is consistent with what Alanda reported about the phone call - that Tina signalled to go back or up to the line, not just up].
Did you go to Australia? Yes, went to Townsville and went out on Jazz II to the Yongala. Did you continue to have contact with Queensland Police? Yes, with Senior Constable Glen Lawrence and then Detective Sergeant Gary Campbell. Did they come here to meet you? Yes, a year after my second trip. Did you do anything about finding out who benefited from the insurance? Yes, when I came back from Australia.
Then there was a short break.
Defence Cross Examination
Brett Bloomston asked questions. You gave previous statements? Yes. If your account is different from then to now, would you attribute this to time? Yes. There was a question about whether Gabe said to go back to the line or up? Yes. This was the same phone call you listened to? Yes. Your daughter Alanda said Gabe said Tina said up and back to the rope? Yes.
What was the Parisian's insurance? One year's salary [$33,000]. You were the beneficiary? Yes. You filled out the form two weeks after Tina died? Yes. Were you aware that Gabe was the administrator of Tina's estate? Not then. You are in litigation with Gabe over probate? Yes. Before Tina even got back from Australia you and Alanda cleared out Tina's desk at Parisian? Yes. Were you aware at that time that Gabe was administrator of her estate? Not sure. Are you aware that the administrator is charged with finding all assets and liabilities? Yes. Are you aware that the value of Tina's estate was $3,000? Are you aware she had a liability of $24,000? Not sure of the exact amount.
At the funeral, did Gabe hand you Tina's earrings? Not sure. You are aware that Gabe went to Australia and pled guilty to manslaughter and negligence? Did not have barrister (???) - the judge questioned this and Tommy replied: Yes, to some degree. You knew what the sentence was? Yes. Are you aware that the highest court of appeal ruled Gabe did nothing deliberate to kill Tina? Objected and sustained.
Valeska asked "Did you at some time come back to Alabama?". [Well, he was in the court - stupid question of the day]. Valeska asked about the statement he gave Queensland Police. It was started in Australia and finished in US when Campbell came to the US. He read his statement where he says Tina gave thumbs up. Were you consulted about the manslaughter plea? After the fact.
Break for lunch. During this time, at least two of the sherriffs indicated to me that they had never seen a poorer case for the prosecution and said they could not see how it would go any further. I had already thought that this may be the case.
After the break, Valeska rested the State's case.
MOTION TO DISMISS
Brett Bloomston then filed a motion that he had served on the Attorney-General [not sure if the person or the office] to dismiss with a judgement for acquittal.
He then put his case to Judge Tommy Nail. He said the evidence and testimony was insufficient to prove guilt of capital murder. The only direct evidence was from Dr Stutz and he stated that Gabe was trying to save Tina, he said he was shocked when subpoenaed to the trial to find it was a murder trial. There were no other eye witnesses, the rest was speculation and conjecture.
Ken Snyder's statement showed that he had no knowledge of what happened, Doug Milsap said Gabe was shocked, he used the same phrase as Snyder but also had no knowledge of what happened. Paula Snyder said Gabe was shocked, repeating over and over what had happened.
Uzi Barnai stated that Gabe was an inexperienced diver, and he also had no knowledge of what happened. Wade Singleton accepted that it was his responsibility to ensure that a diver's experience was appropriate for the dive site. His many breaches of Queensland law were a major contributor to what happened. He agreed that Gabe was inexperienced. He testified he has no personal knowledge as to what happened.
Gabe's story as told by Snyders, Milsap and others is materially the same. Gehringer said Gabe was calm, but the video of the interview shows he was upset. A number of witnesses said Gabe was upset. Campbell said that the 2007 statement was substantially the same as his 2003 statements. Adam White supports that Gabe ascended rapidly. Professor Williams said that there were a number of ways that a person could drown but he could not tell why Tina drowned.
There has been a claim that Gabe killed Tina for a pecuniary gain. The only claim Gabe made on insurance was for money he spent bring Tina back home. Gabe did speak to Amanda Lorenz Phillips and joked about had he got additional insurance, he would be in gaol in Australia.
Caesar Lamonaca stated that it was one month after Tina died that Gabe came and asked about Tina's things and the life insurance. The HR manager said Tina did not exercise the increase to insurance nor did she change the beneficiary from her father to Gabe. The funeral director, Shelton, said that it was not uncommon for a loved one to ask for the rings of a person who had died.
Tina's liabilities outweighed her assets $24,000 to $3,000. There is no evidence of any pecuniary gain at all. There is nothing shown that he initiated the purchase of life insurance in Jefferson County, or murdered and collected any insurance in Jefferson County.
Don Valeska [in what to me seemed to be a very half-hearted attempt to rebut the motion] said that the State proved Tina was dead, proved that Gabe did it, that there was a financial gain or the thought that there may be a gain. The jurisdiction was that she was last seen in the company of the deceased.
Judge Tommy Nail
I have listened to all the evidence. If this was a trial for negligence, then they have proved this. The State has not proved murder. There has to be some evidence. The State has failed to show there was an intention to kill Tina, failed to show there was any financial gain. They used the engagement ring as a pecuniary gain, this was nothing of the sort. Gabe was not a beneficiary to Tina's life insurance. The only claim was $10,000 on the travel insurance for expenses.
There is no evidence.
I dismiss the case and acquit Gabe Watson of murder.
The court erupted in cheering and clapping. Gabe hugged his legal team before going to his wife Kim and brother Daniel and parents David and Glenda.
Finally, they all left the court and a huge media scrum surrounded them outside. Brett did a short interview and then they were all off. It was all over.
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|Gabe leaves court after been acquitted|
His brother Daniel at left and Kim in the middle
|Gabe listening while Brett Bloomston talks to the media|
Daniel Watson to right, Michael Hanle to left