Christine O wrote:
American Gabe Watson was found guilty of manslaughter rather than murder here in Australia thanks to the implementing of an obscure law.
So far as I know there was no “obscure law” involved. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and the prosecution dropped a charge of murder. The prosecution made this decision, so far as I can see, because the evidence to support a charge of murder was very weak.
Christine O wrote:
He served an eighteen month prison sentence here.
The Governor of his home state of Alabama now wants to try him before a Grand Jury over there.
The Australian justice system is considering allowing him to stay here, just to eliminate the prospect of him being dealt the death penalty.
Because Australia (along with many other countries) has a consistent policy of not extraditing people to places where they face capital punishment.
This problem has come up before (in fact, if you think about it, the US faces it quite a lot) and there is a well-established solution. The US authorities have to give satisfactory guarantees to the Australian authorities that, if extradited and convicted, Watson will not be executed. The objection to Watson’s extradition then disappears.
So far as I can gather from the newspaper coverage there is no real dispute that this is the way to handle the matter. The dispute is that the American authorities feel they have already given the required guarantees, whereas the Australian authorities want them given at a higher/more formal level. I feel sure that this is a problem which can be solved.
But it seems to me that there is a bigger problem. But the US and Australia have a rule against double jeopardy – meaning that, if you have already been tried and acquitted (or, for that matter, convicted) for a particular matter, you cannot be tried a second time. Watson has already been tried and acquitted for murder. Furthermore, he has been convicted and sentenced for manslaughter arising out of his wife’s death; that would in itself normally preclude a later charge of murder arising out of the same death, even if he hadn’t been charged with murder the first time around.
If satisfactory assurances about the death penalty are given, Watson will almost certainly object to his deportation on the grounds that he is going to be arrested and charged in the US in a way which violates the rule against double jeopardy. That point is not so easily disposed of.