(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) — The judge presiding over the murder trial of accused “Honeymoon Killer” Gabe Watson has openly scoffed at the prosecution’s claims and angrily asked the prosecutor if he needs lessons on the rules of court.
The actions by Judge Tommy Nail raise questions about the prosecution’s case.
Watson is accused of killing Tina Watson, his bride of 11 days, during their honeymoon in Australia by drowning her while scuba diving off the Great Barrier Reef. The motive for the alleged crime was Watson’s intention to collect on a $130,000 insurance policy and to sell her possessions, the prosecution argued in its opening statement.
The judge’s anger boiled over Tuesday after prosecutor Don Valeska questioned funeral home director Sam Shelton about Watson retrieving his wife’s engagement ring from the casket, but asking that her wedding ring remain on her hand.
The judge interrupted the testimony to say, “I took my grandmother’s engagement ring when she was buried. I think it’s quite common.” Nail asked Shelton if most of his customers took their loved one’s rings and Shelton responded, “It’s quite common.”
The sparring between the judge and the prosecutor continued until Nail sent the jury out of the courtroom and posed a sharp question to Valeska.
“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.
The courtroom fell silent.
During the prosecution’s questioning of Tina Watson’s sister, Alanda Thomas, on Tuesday the defense repeatedly objected to Valeska’s questions and Nail sustained nearly every defense objection.
When Valeska became visibly frustrated, the judge pounded his desk and pointed at Valeska, saying loudly, “Do you need the definition of hearsay? If y’all can’t accept my ruling you know where Montgomery is; take off.” Montgomery is the neighboring county from Jefferson County where the murder trial is taking place.
The heated discussions began after prosecutors pressed their witnesses on questions about Watson’s character. Throughout the trial, prosecutors have tried to paint Watson as an unemotional, calculating killer.
Valeska later said to ABC News, “I wish we had gotten in the stuff that he ruled out, but I can’t do anything but move on.”
Watson never received any money from his wife’s insurance policy since her father was listed as the beneficiary. Watson had filed a claim for $10,000 in travel insurance to cover what he says would was the total cost incurred as a result of his wife’s death in Australia.
Watson, 36, has since remarried.
There was no testimony in the case Wednesday.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Kevin Liptak, CNN
Matt Egan, CNN
Ray Sanchez, CNN
Billy Hallowell, Deseret News