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That 'other' high profile Florida murder case begins Monday

ORLANDO — Like the Casey Anthony saga earlier this summer, the high profile murder trial of James Robert "Bob" Ward contains certain elements that tend to draw media attention: money, mystery and murder.

Ward, a millionaire developer, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of his wife Diane, who was shot in the bedroom of their Isleworth mansion in 2009.

But as jury selection for Ward begins today at the Orange County Courthouse, the folks watching will experience a different kind of trial over the next two weeks than was seen with Casey Anthony.

Don't expect many sidebar discussions or judicial reprimands. And win or lose, it is hard to imagine Ward's attorneys, Kirk Kirkconnell and Michael Snure, getting captured in a photo directing a middle finger toward the paparazzi — a la Anthony co-counsel Cheney Mason.

The Ward team's low-key approach — along with the lack of hype from the prosecution — has kept a case with great potential for sensationalism from becoming a circus. Nonetheless, Ward's is a high-visibility case. His freedom and fortune are on the line. And, to some extent, so is the reputation of State Attorney Lawson Lamar's office.

"Politically, I think there is a lot of pressure on them (the prosecution) to win this case," said Orlando defense attorney Richard Hornsby, a legal analyst for Orlando's WESH Ch. 2. "They just have a terrible record with high profile cases."

Ward's defense, Hornsby said, is comprised of some of the "best legal talent in Central Florida." Yet the prosecution, featuring Robin Wilkinson and Ken Lewis, is, in many ways, as formidable as Casey Anthony's prosecutors, Hornsby said.

"This trial will be nothing like the hysterics we saw in the Casey Anthony trial at all," Hornsby said, adding that Ward's trial may seem "boring" in comparison. "This will be more of a prototypical criminal trial."

Jurors will hear Ward's incriminating 911 call from Sept. 21, 2009: "I just shot my wife … she's dead." And they should see video of Ward, now 63, as he makes calls from an interview room after his arrest and vaguely explains to friends and family what happened to his wife.

"Uh, Diane is dead," Ward says during a call to his brother-in-law. "It was a very tragic accident. And other than that, all I wish I could do was go (expletive deleted) shoot myself in the (expletive) head and go on."

Ward's jury, unlike Casey Anthony's, will be selected from a pool of local residents. Possible jurors will be questioned about exposure to the pretrial publicity surrounding the case.

Court records hint that the jurors ultimately selected to decide the case may also learn as much about Diane Ward, who was 55 at the time of her death, as her high-end-real-estate-dealing husband.

That 'other' high profile Florida murder case begins Monday 09/11/11 [Last modified: Sunday, September 11, 2011 11:47pm]
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