Plea Bargaining and Miscarriage of Justice: a Case Study of the Prosecution of Gabe Watson, the So-called 'Honeymoon Killer'

Colvin, Imogen (2015) Plea Bargaining and Miscarriage of Justice: a Case Study of the Prosecution of Gabe Watson, the So-called 'Honeymoon Killer'. University of Queensland Law Journal, 34 1: 71-98.

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Name Description MIMEType Size Downloads
Author Colvin, Imogen
Title Plea Bargaining and Miscarriage of Justice: a Case Study of the Prosecution of Gabe Watson, the So-called 'Honeymoon Killer'
Journal name University of Queensland Law Journal   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0083-4041
Publication date 2015-07
Year available 2015
Sub-type Article (original research)
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 34
Issue 1
Start page 71
End page 98
Total pages 28
Place of publication St Lucia, Queensland, Australia
Publisher University of Queensland Press
Collection year 2016
Language eng
Formatted abstract
The high profile Queensland prosecution of Gabe Watson for the murder of his wife Tina, who died while the couple were scuba diving together on their honeymoon, ended without trial. Instead, the matter was dealt with in court by plea agreement to the offence of manslaughter. Serious questions remain in the public sphere about the conduct of the case, and the underlying merits of the murder allegations. The controversy has been aided by public statements made by the investigating police officers describing the evidence they allege supported the murder case as well as their personal belief in Gabe Watson's guilt.

The criminal justice system can be divided into three steps- investigative, adjudicative, and appellate. The plea bargaining process replaces the adjudicative phase with an agreement, and curtails access to the appellate process. The adjudicative trial process, although imperfect, serves to identify and correct errors which may occur in the investigative phase of the criminal justice system. Errors at trial may be rectified in the appellate courts. Plea bargainning, which replaces the adjudicative trial process with agreement between the parties and which effectively forecloses access to the appellate system, creates the potential for errors to go uncorrected.

This article uses the evidence of the Watson case to make two arguments with broader applicability. The first is to argue that the plea bargain in the Watson case was a mistake which constituted a miscarriage of justice in itself. In particular, the plea bargain cannot be considered in isolation, particularly in high-profile cases such as Watson. Any allegations of criminal conduct carry significant stigma, particularly when made by agents of the state. The second argument relates to a range of extrajudicial statements were made by agents of the state, statements which continued after the conclusion of the plea bargaining process. These statements were untested in criminal court and this article argues that some of the information contained in them appears to have been incorrect. Yet, through these statements, agents of the state continued to impugn Watson's reputation. The Watson case is illustrative of the broader dangers that plea bargains may pose for the possibility of miscarriages of justice as the fact-finding process of the criminal trial is abandoned, allowing errors and speculation to replace evidence and unfounded assumptions to replace law.
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
TC Beirne School of Law Publications
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Created: Fri, 09 Oct 2015, 15:32:37 EST by Carmen Buttery on behalf of T.C. Beirne School of Law