NEW: The prosecutor says Ward killed his wife "out of anger, out of frustration"
NEW: The defense says it will appeal, describing Ward as "optimistic" yet "disappointed"
Diane Ward was shot dead in 2009 in the Florida home she shared with her husband
A Florida jury on Saturday found a millionaire guilty of murdering his wife in their upscale home.
Diane Ward was shot dead in 2009 in the house she shared with her husband, James “Bob” Ward, in the Orlando suburb of Windermere. Two years later – and following a week-long trial and deliberations that stretched into a second day – he was convicted of second-degree murder.
Soon after entering the Orlando courtroom late Saturday morning, Ward went to a back row and sat between his two visibly distraught daughters, one of whom had testified that she detected no animosity between her parents. He put one arm around both in order to comfort them for several minutes, before heading to his regular seat for the jury’s verdict.
When the verdict was read, the 63-year-old Ward showed little evident emotion, though his daughters continued to cry.
According to an Orange County Sheriff’s Office arrest affidavit, the victim was found in the master bedroom – “a large pool of blood at the top of her head” and a .357 Magnum handgun on a nightstand next to the bed. She was shot between her eyes.
Ward told police the couple were the only ones in the house at the time, besides their four dogs.
After the verdict, prosecutor Robin Wilkinson said the jury’s message, and beliefs, were clear.
“It says that out of anger, out of frustration, Mr. Ward pulled a gun and shot his wife in the face,” she said of the verdict.
Defense attorney Kirk Kirkconnell, meanwhile, said his client “knows that we have good grounds to appeal (and) I think that he remains optimistic.” But the verdict still stings.
“He’s disappointed,” Kirkconnell told reporters. “He hates leaving his family, obviously, as any man would.”
During the trial, the defense contended that Ward loved his family, while prosecutors said the Florida millionaire’s demeanor – along with the evidence – proves he murdered his 55-year-old wife.
The defense rested its case Thursday, a week after testimony started. It asserted that Diane Ward died after a struggle over a loaded gun, not because of any ill intent of her husband.
The prosecution pointed out that Ward called 911 the night of the shooting and said, “I just shot my wife,” then offered shifting stories as the call progressed and later in his conversations with relatives and colleagues. They said that his stories were inconsistent at best, while the evidence suggests that he pulled the trigger.
“What I would like to do is appeal to one thing, and one thing only: your common sense,” fellow prosecutor Ken Lewis told the jury during the rebuttal phase of closing arguments Thursday.