Image: Tina Watson
Queensland Police via AP file
In this photo supplied by Australia's Queensland Police, Tina Watson is seen lying motionless on the sea floor as an unidentified diver poses for the camera, center, while a dive leader, left and partially hidden, hurries to help the American.
updated 9/18/2009 4:41:04 AM ET 2009-09-18T08:41:04

An Australian court added six more months Friday to the one-year prison sentence of an American man convicted of manslaughter in the death of his wife during a honeymoon scuba diving trip.

The Queensland state Court of Appeals ruled in a two-to-one verdict to keep David Gabriel Watson in prison for 18 months, following a request by a state attorney general to impose a harsher sentence on the Birmingham, Ala., man.

Watson, 32, pleaded guilty in June to the manslaughter of his wife, Christina Mae Watson, who died while scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef in 2003, just 11 days after their wedding. He was sentenced to serve one year of a four-and-a-half year prison sentence.

The sentence outraged Christina Watson's family , who felt it was too lenient, and Attorney-General Cameron Dick appealed on the grounds that the term was "manifestly inadequate."

Watson said he went for help when his wife experienced trouble during their scuba dive rather than inflating her buoyancy vest or removing weights from her belt to bring her to the surface. Her body was found on the ocean floor.

Insurance motive?
Watson was originally charged with murder after a coroner ruled that it was likely Watson killed his wife by holding her underwater and turning off her air supply. The murder charge, which could have carried a life sentence, was dropped after Watson pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

The coroner said a possible motive was Christina's modest life insurance policy.

In July, prosecutor Walter Sofronoff, acting on behalf of the attorney general, told the court the punishment should be extended to a seven-year sentence with a required two-and-a-half years in jail.

Sofronoff told the court that Watson, an experienced diver trained in rescuing panicked divers, had given five different stories as to what happened.

But defense attorney Martin Burns argued his client had made a split-second decision to go for help, which turned out to be the wrong choice.

In their written decision, Chief Justice Paul de Jersey said he favored at least doubling Watson's sentence because he contributed to his wife's death in "criminally derelict circumstances."

But de Jersey wrote he agreed to extend the sentence by just six months because one of the other justices had dismissed the appeal, and the third would only agree to increase the penalty by that much.

More on: Australia

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Video: Family reacts to scuba drowning sentence


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