Prosecutors said Gabe Watson, motivated by potential insurance payouts, had drowned his wife Tina in October 2003 by turning off her oxygen supply during their christian louboutin dive in the waters off Townsville, Australia.
But after prosecutors wrapped up their case on Thursday, Judge Tommy Nail ruled there was no evidence to suggest that Gabe Watson intended to kill.
"The only way to convict this man of capital murder is to use speculation and conjecture," Nail said. "The state has failed to establish an intentional killing."
Prosecutors claimed Watson stood to gain up to $210,000 in life and travel insurance from his wife's death. But the defense said far less money was at stake and that Watson was not yet a beneficiary for any of the life insurance funds.
An eye witness testified that he saw Gabe Watson wrap his arms around his wife underwater and figured Watson was trying to save her.
Watson's mother collapsed in tears outside of the courtroom after hearing the judge had granted the defense's motion for an acquittal.
"I am thrilled for Gabe. He can finally begin the healing process," said Watson's father, David Watson. "Hopefully he can put his life back together."
Judges rarely grant acquittals in murder cases, said Steve Emens, a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law. He said Tina Watson's family could still file a wrongful death claim against Watson if they have not done so already.
Gabe Watson, 34, served 18 months in an Australian jail after pleading guilty to failing to do enough to help his 26-year-old wife during the dive.
He was tried for murder in Birmingham, Alabama, because that was where the couple married and prosecutors say he plotted Tina's death.
Alabama authorities agreed to waive the death penalty in order to get Australian authorities to release Watson back to the United States, meaning he would have faced a maximum lifetime prison sentence had he been convicted.
The judge's ruling Thursday abruptly ended the trial, which was in its second week and had been closely watched by the Australian media.
Tina Watson's father was the state's final witness. He told jurors that Gabe Watson legally pursued his wife's family for everything she owned, down to her Gone with the Wind movie memorabilia.
Tommy Thomas said he made several trips to Australia to investigate his daughter's death himself. During his testimony, he cried and shot angry looks at the man who was his son-in-law for just 11 days.
"It should have gone to a jury to decide," Thomas told reporters afterward. "We are disappointed. There is a lot more protection for the accused than the victim."
A former aide and a former mistress of one-time presidential candidate John Edwards have settled a civil lawsuit between them that, among other measures, mandates the Christian Louboutin Slingback imminent destruction of sex tapes featuring Edwards and the woman.
Orange County, North Carolina, Superior Court Judge Carl Fox on Thursday signed the settlement agreement between Andrew Young, his wife and Rielle Hunter, the woman who had sued the couple, according to court official Tammy Keshler.
Hunter had sued Young and his wife, Cheri, for invasion of privacy seeking to reclaim materials that she said belong to her, including personal photographs and an alleged sex tape showing her with Edwards.
While the settlement addresses the transfer and destruction of videos, photographs and other documents, no monetary damages were awarded and the Youngs admit no liability.
Hunter agreed to destroy copies of the sex tape she'll receive, while the Youngs must make a good-faith effort to ensure that the copy of the video that they gave to the U.S. government is likewise destroyed, per the agreement.
The former aide and his wife will get back family videos and photos, though they cannot use any that include Hunter or her daughter -- whom Edwards has admitted he fathered -- for anything besides family purposes.
Young wrote a book, "The Politician: An Insider's Account of John Edwards's Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down," in which he describes an elaborate plan to use money from two wealthy benefactors to allow Edwards to maintain a relationship with Hunter. She worked as a videographer on the failed 2008 presidential campaign of the former North Carolina senator, who was also the Democrats' 2004 vice presidential nominee with running mate John Kerry.
Plans are under way to make that book, "The Politician," into a movie from Aaron Sorkin and Colvin Road Entertainment.
The Youngs can use information already in the book, in court proceedings or otherwise in the public domain, according to Keshler. But anything beyond that is prohibited by court order, and the couple cannot publicize the planned film.
A gag order prohibits either of the parties from discussing the settlement.
The agreement does not resolve the pending criminal contempt proceedings against Young and his wife.
Young's former boss, Edwards, is scheduled to be on trial himself after being indicted last year on charges including conspiracy, issuing false statements and violating campaign contribution laws regarding donations to and payments from his presidential campaign.
Edwards denies any wrongdoing.
Whether the money given to support Hunter by Christian Louboutin Skeleton Zipper Suede Boots Black Edwards' benefactors -- as alleged by Young in his book -- should have been considered campaign donations is a key issue in Edwards' upcoming trial. The ex-senator's legal team has disputed that notion, maintaining the money was a gift to Hunter.