A millionaire developer who lived in the same central Florida neighborhood as Tiger Woods was convicted Saturday of murdering his wife in their mansion.
For more than 12 hours over two days, the six jurors found Bob Ward guilty of second-degree murder in the 2009 shooting death of his wife, Diane, The Associated Press reported.
The shooting occurred days before she was to give a deposition in a lawsuit alleging that her husband blew millions of dollars on big house and expensive cars while his business failed. Ward's lawyers maintained at the trial that Diane might have been suicidal, and the couple struggled over a gun before it accidentally discharged.
State experts calculated that Diane was shot in the face from a distance of 18 inches, and testified it would have been impossible for her to do that.
Ward faces up to life in prison when he's sentenced in November. But defense attorney Kirk Kirkconnell said he plans to appeal the verdict and request a new trial; Ward's trial took place in the same courthouse where the Casey Anthony case was tried this summer.
Because of this, Kirkconnell said jurors might have been more likely to convict ward.
What happened to Casey Anthony certainly makes it more difficult for any defendant, probably anywhere in the state of Florida, to get a fair trial, Kirkconnell said. I think there is a widely held belief, or prejudice, based on the Casey Anthony case because people may have felt that that verdict was not the proper verdict.
During closing arguments Thursday, prosecutor Robin Wilkinson used Ward's own words against him by playing a 911 recording in which he told a dispatcher five times, I just shot my wife.
After Saturday's verdict, Wilkinson said she felt sorry for the Wards' two daughters, who had lost a mother and were now losing a father to prison. But she said justice had been served.
Who wants to believe that their father killed their mother? Wilkinson said. I believe Diane Ward got justice today.
Ward was reportedly under stress at the time of the shooting due to business bankruptcy and home foreclosure. Prosecutors said Diane had not seemed suicidal in conversations that day with friends and family, and had just opened a Facebook account.
The year before the shooting, Ward filed for bankruptcy protection for his real estate development company and stopped making $17,000 monthly mortgage payments on his home, according to news reports at the time of the shooting.