Florida millionaire Bob Ward was found guilty of second degree murder on Saturday for the murder of his wife, Diane Ward, in a decision that his lawyer claims was influenced by the recent Casey Anthony trial.
The six jurors reportedly deliberated for more than 12 hours over two days to reach a decision regarding Diane Ward's September 2009 shooting death. The two-week-long trial took place in the same Orlando courtroom where the Casey Anthony case was tried this summer, a fact that Ward's attorney, Kirk Kirkconnell, said may have influenced the jury's ultimate decision.
Certainly what happened to Casey Anthony makes it more difficult for any defendant in, probably anywhere in the state of Florida, to get a fair trial, and that's a concern, Kirkconnell told reporters after the verdict was read. I think there's a widely held prejudice against a defendant based on the Casey Anthony case because people may have felt that was not the proper verdict.
The Florida mother was acquitted in the murder of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, in a controversial and surprising verdict that outraged people across the nation.
Ward may currently face life in prison when he is sentenced in November. However, Kirkconnell said he plans to appeal the verdict and request a new trial.
Ward was accused of shooting his wife at point-blank range just days before she was scheduled to give a deposition in a lawsuit alleging that he spent millions of dollars on luxury homes and vehicles while his home development business failed. Ward's attorney argued that Diane Ward was actually suicidal and his client had attempted to grab the gun from her hand when she either shot herself or the gun accidentally went off.
The prosecution disagreed, alleging that Ward had intentionally shot his wife in the face in a moment of rage. During closing arguments on Thursday, the prosecution played a 911 recording in which Ward told a dispatcher five times, I just shot my wife.
Both of Wards' college-aged daughters were in the courtroom when the verdict was read. The girls, who have supported their father throughout their mother's murder case, cried as their father hugged them, according to multiple reports.
Prosecutor Robin Wilkinson told reporters that while she felt sorry for Wards' two daughters, she believed justice has been served for their mother.
Who wants to believe that their father killed their mother? Wilkinson said. I believe Diane Ward got justice today.
The Wards' marriage was reportedly under stress due to the bankruptcy of Bob Ward's company, Land Resource, and an additional lawsuit from an insurance company that accused Ward of stealing millions from the sale of lots in subdivisions he was building in Tennessee.
Ward also exhibited what the prosecution characterized as suspicious behavior in the days after his arrest. A jailhouse video of a visit from one of his daughters and his sister-in-law days after Diane Ward's death reportedly shows him joking and laughing during their stay.