CRIME
02/14/2012 09:57 am ET

Gabe Watson Trial Update: Jury Selection Begins In Tina Watson's Scuba-Diving Death

Alabama prosecutors dropped one charge against Gabe Watson in the opening day of his trial Monday for allegedly drowning his wife while scuba-diving on their Australian honeymoon in 2003.

Prosecutors from the state's attorney general office charge that Watson, 34, turned off Tina Thomas Watson's air supply while they dove off the Great Barrier Reef in an attempt to collect on a life insurance policy. But they eliminated the count of murder during an abduction against him, The Birmingham News says.

Watson, who has remarried, still stands trial for allegedly carrying out a murder he planned to cash in the relatively modest $33,000 life insurance policy, according to "Good Morning America".

In his defense, Watson has said his spouse died in an accident. He says that Tina -- who was a novice scuba diver -- panicked underwater. When he tried to help, he says she dislodged his mask and by the time he repositioned his gear, it was too late.

Another swimmer on the dive told Australian investigators that he saw Watson restrain her in a bear hug. Prosecutors believe he flipped off the air switch and held her until she lost consciousness, then allowed her to sink to the ocean floor where her body was later recovered.

Tina's father, Tommy Thomas, points a finger at Watson because of advice his daughter sought from him days before she got married, according to "Good Morning America". Thomas claims that Watson asked his bride-to-be to max out her life insurance policy to $130,000 and to name him the beneficiary, instead of her dad. Thomas says he told his daughter to say she made the changes, but not worry about it until after the wedding.

Monday's proceedings focused on jury selection and motions, like dropping the murder during abduction count. David and Glenda Watson, Gabe's parents, sat in the audience. His new wife, Kim, also attended the first day of the trial.

Prosecutors down under went after Watson with murder charges, but reduced it to manslaughter. He was imprisoned until 2010 when he was deported to the United States.

Though Watson is charged with first-degree murder, he doesn't face the death penalty. Australian officials would only return him to the U.S. if prosecutors agreed to a maximum sentence of life behind bars.

Witnesses from as far away as Australia have been subpoenaed, but it's unclear if they will make the trip. The trial is expected to last two weeks.

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