The judge in the honeymoon murder trial threw out key testimony today that went to the heart of the prosecution's claim that Gabe Watson drowned his wife while scuba diving to collect on her insurance.
Watson, 36, is charged with killing Tina Watson in 2003 during an Australian honeymoon 11 days after they were married.
In opening statements, prosecutors said that Tina Watson's father, Tommy Thomas, would tell the court that his daughter came to him shortly before the wedding to say that Gabe Watson asked her to increase her insurance to $130,000. The father told her "not to worry about it" now, but tell Gabe Watson it had been increased.
Judge Tommy Nail ruled the statement inadmissible and hearsay.
Nail's ruling came two days after the judge sent the jury out of the courtroom and scoffed at prosecutor Don Valeska's suggestions that Gabe Watson took back his wife's engagement ring before she was buried as evidence of his greed.
Honeymoon Murder Trial
"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?" the judge asked.
Tommy Thomas' allegation that Gabe Watson was after his daughter's money appeared to take another hit today when defense lawyer Brett Bloomstom asked him, "Do you know Tina's estate valued was $3,000 at time of her death?"
"No," replied Thomas.
"Are you aware Tina had $24,000 in debt?" Bloomstom asked.
"No," the father replied.
Bloomstom also asked Thomas if he collected his daughter's life insurance, and Thomas admitted that he did.
Tina Watson drowned while scuba diving with her husband in strong currents off the Great Barrier Reef. Gabe Watson claims she panicked and when he went to help her, she accidentally knocked his mask and regulator off. By the time he recovered, she had drifted out of his reach.
Prosecutors claim that Gabe Watson turned off his wife's air long enough for her to die, and then turned the air back on and let her go.
Gabe Watson had pleaded guilty to negligent manslaughter in Australia for failing to save her and spent 18 months in prison. Alabama is trying him for murder, claiming the alleged crime was plotted in the U.S.
Tommy Thomas' appearance on the stand today was emotional as he recounted what he said was a series of lies by Gabe Watson.
He told the court that Gabe Watson told him by phone shortly after his daughter died that Tina Watson gave him a thumbs-up, meaning she wanted to surface. Months later, when the father asked Watson why he didn't take her to the surface when she gave a thumbs-up, Watson allegedly said it meant that she wanted to go to the anchor line.
The father also said that Gabe Watson told him that he was by Tina's side during efforts to revive her and that he came back with her body on the plane, which contradicts what Watson told others.
As he left the stand, Thomas looked the jurors in the eyes, but only a few looked back at him.