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After acquittal, Ala. man looks to resume life

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) – The Alabama man who was acquitted in his bride’s diving death said he did what he thought was the best course of action when she struggled for air off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

The Birmingham News ( reported that Gabe Watson said he worried for years after the 2003 death of his wife of 11 days, Tina Thomas Watson, that he should have done more to save her life.

“I just came to the realization one day that I did what I did,” he told the newspaper. “I can’t change it, so I just have to accept it and go on with my life.”

Last month, an Alabama judge acquitted the 34-year-old in Tina Thomas Watson’s death. Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tommy Nail decided prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence for jurors to even bother deliberating.

“As soon as he said, `I am going to grant the defendant’s motion for acquittal,’ oh, I was in shock,” he said.

He said he wanted to hear a jury find him not guilty but their decision likely would have been criticized.

“People would have just said the jury didn’t understand this or that,” he said. “But with Judge Nail making the ruling that the evidence didn’t even meet the little, bitty bump they had to get over to even get it to a jury, to me speaks louder, at least in a legal sense. It was a powerful statement.”

Before being extradited to the United States, he served 18 months in prison in Australia after pleading guilty to a manslaughter charge in his wife’s death but that charge involved negligence, not intentional killing as Alabama authorities later alleged.

In the February trial, Alabama prosecutors accused him of killing her during a dive by turning off her air supply and restraining her until she lost consciousness in order to collect on a modest life insurance policy. His attorneys argued her death was an accident.

When Gabe Watson finished his sentence in Australia in November 2010, the country deported him to the United States with an agreement from Alabama and federal prosecutors that he wouldn’t face the death penalty, a requirement under Australian extradition law.

He said his tribulations have changed him for the better.

“I don’t take anything for granted, obviously knowing that you’re not even guaranteed you’ll be here the next hour,” Watson said. “I’m a lot more emotional, though I still don’t show emotion like everyone says I should.”

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)