CRIME
02/21/2012 03:19 pm ET Updated Feb 21, 2012

Gabe Watson Trial Update: Dive Experts, Friends Testify Against Alleged Honeymoon Scuba Killer

As the "Honeymoon Scuba Death" trial enters its seventh day, an Alabama judge is expected to rule if the jury will see a contested police reenactment of Tina Thomas Watson's drowning.

Australian police staged a mock drowning near a shipwreck off the Great Barrier Reef to test Gabe Watson's statements about where he was when his new bride sank to her death in 2003, the Courier Mail reported.

A Queensland police scuba diver who took part in the recreation said that every time he dropped a dummy from the spot where Watson said his wife slipped from his hold, it landed on or near the sunken ship at the dive site, according to the newspaper. But Tina's body was found about 50 feet away from the boat. However, Judge Tommy Nail hasn't ruled yet if the jury can hear that testimony, because he's unsure if the recreations took place under sufficiently similar conditions.

In other testimony on Monday, the 34-year-old defendant was battered by his wife's best friend, who described his odd behavior in the wake of the suspicious death, ABC News said.

The Alabama attorney general contends Watson turned off Tina's air supply and held her underwater on their honeymoon to cash in on a life insurance policy. Watson pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. The defense argues that the death was accidental and resulted from her panic in a strong current.

SEE A TIMELINE OF KEY EVENTS IN THE "HONEYMOON SCUBA DEATH"

Amanda Phillips, Tina's maid of honor, said she saw Watson show photos at Tina Thomas Watson's funeral of her standing in front of signs that read "Caution: Drowning."

Watson allegedly committed another gaffe when he stood at Tina's casket with Phillips. According to Phillips, she said that Tina looked pretty to which Watson replied, "At least her breasts [look] perky,"reported TV station WBRC.

In a potentially ominous conversation, Watson spoke to Phillips about his wife's life insurance policy. Two weeks after she died, Watson supposedly told Phillips that he'd considered increasing Tina's coverage to $1 million, the Birmingham News reported.

"And it's a good thing we didn't do, that otherwise I'd be in an Australian jail right now on involuntary manslaughter charges," Watson said, according to Phillips' testimony.

Watson served 18 months in an Australian prison for manslaughter before getting deported to the United States. He faces life behind bars if convicted in his home state.

Depite Phillips' potentially damaging testimony, the defense scored some points on technical matters during their questioning of dive experts who took the stand.

Adam White, an executive with Oceanic, the company that made the dive computers used by Watson and his wife, testified about the data the devices captured. White said information from Watson's wristwatch-sized computer showed he swam to a depth of 54 feet and ascended to the surface in about two to three minutes without pausing, which he said was a "rapid ascent." Under cross-examination, he admitted Watson could have made the ascent in as little as one minute.

White's analysis could hurt Watson, by casting doubt on his statements that he stopped during his ascent to get other divers to rescue Tina. But it could also help his case by suggesting that Watson rushed to the surface to get help from guides.

Tina's dive computer showed that her body lay on the ocean floor for about 10 minuts. Divemaster Wade Singleton said he found her and pulled her to the surface when he saw her dive buddy was not around. The 89-foot ascent took him about 90 seconds, he said.

Singleton also recounted his conversation with Watson after she died. Watson told Singleton he'd tried to pull Tina to the surface but she flailed and dislodged his mask. When he repositioned his gear. he said that Tina was too far away for him to get her.

The defense attacked the testimony of another diving equipment expert, Michael Hollis, who initially said that Tina's buoyancy vest should have enabled her to float even if she was weighted with 32 additional pounds. But when the defense cross-examined him, Hollis said her vest was only strong enough to lift her if she had 19 pounds of weight in her suit. That could become a crucial number, because she actually carried 20 pounds, according to the Birmingham News.

SSEE ARCHIVAL PHOTOS OF GABE WATSON AND TINA THOMAS WATSON:

PHOTO GALLERIES
Gabe Watson

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