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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 2 years ago

Testimony continues in Isleworth murder retrial

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James “Bob” Ward, 69, was arrested in 2009 for second-degree murder. He is accused of the shooting death of his wife, Diane.
by: Eric Gutierrez Staff Writer

Court proceedings are underway in the retrial of an Isleworth man who was convicted in 2011 of killing his wife, according to Orange County court records.

James “Bob” Ward, 69, was arrested in 2009 on a charge of second-degree murder after Orange County deputies found his wife, Diane, dead from a gunshot wound to her face in their Isleworth home. Ward called 911 and told the operator he shot his wife, according to Ward’s arrest report.

“I just shot my wife,” Ward said in the 911 call. “She’s dead. … She’s on the floor in the master bedroom.” 

The arrest report also states Ward told the 911 operator the gun was located in a nightstand by the bed. While investigating the scene, deputies discovered broken glass and a spilled liquid in the back patio of the home and recovered a Smith & Wesson .357 magnum handgun from the top drawer of a nightstand.

Ward called an unknown individual while in custody, and a detective observed the conversation. The detective said Ward told the individual on the phone that his wife killed herself and that he “tried to get the gun out of her hand,” the arrest report states.

Although Ward was convicted in 2011 and sentenced to 30 years in prison, in February 2016, a judge overturned his conviction and sentence and called for a retrial. The judge ruled that Ward’s defense counsel at the time of the trial failed to properly object to evidence regarding his right to remain silent. His new trial began on February 5, Orange County court records state.

James E. Felman said he represented Ward during his sentencing hearing in 2011 and handled Ward’s initial direct appeal at the time. Felman argued the evidence was insufficient to sustain Ward’s conviction because the state failed to rebut the possibility that Diane’s death was accidental, according to a brief Felman submitted to the state’s 5th District Court of Appeals.

“There was no proof beyond a reasonable doubt in his (Ward’s) trial to prove that he was guilty,” he said.

A representative with Ninth Judicial Circuit Court did not respond to attempts of contact.

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