Image: Gabe Watson, Tina Watson engagement photo
Anonymous  /  AP
Gabe Watson, left, and his wife, Tina, pose on their engagement. Watson, convicted of manslaughter in Australia in his wife's honeymoon death, entered a not guilty plea Monday in Alabama.
By
updated 1/31/2011 11:58:50 AM ET 2011-01-31T16:58:50

An Alabama man accused of killing his wife during a honeymoon diving trip in Australia pleaded not guilty Monday in a Birmingham courtroom.

Circuit Judge Tommy Nail set Gabe Watson's trial for May 23. Watson is free on bond until then.

Watson, 33, served 18 months in an Australian jail after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the death of his wife of 11 days, Tina Watson. Alabama authorities charged Watson with capital murder, arguing he planned her death and sought insurance proceeds in his home state.

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The defense claims Tina Watson's death in 2003 was a tragic accident, and that Australian authorities botched the investigation.

Alabama Attorney General Troy King has said Australian authorities showed too much leniency to Watson.

Australia, a staunch opponent of capital punishment, delayed his deportation until it received a pledge that U.S. authorities would not seek the death penalty.

"The Australians extorted from the state and the victim's family to water down our justice, just like they watered down theirs," King said when Watson was extradited in October.

Watson acknowledged in his plea in Australia that he committed a negligent act, failing to do enough to save his wife. But Watson denies deliberately trying to kill her.

Watson, an accomplished diver, was dubbed the "Honeymoon Killer" by the Australian media after his wife drowned during a scuba diving trip on the Great Barrier Reef.

In 2008, the Queensland state coroner found there was sufficient evidence to charge Watson with her death, and he was officially charged with murder a few months later.

In 2009, Gabe Watson — who had remarried — traveled to Australia to face trial.

Officials in Queensland state argued he killed his wife by turning off her air supply and holding her underwater.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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