Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law has led to the acquittal of Vietnam veteran Ralph Wald, 70, after he shot and killed 32-year-old Walter Conley in his home after finding Conley engaged in a sexual act with Wald’s wife.
Conley died on March 10, when Wald discovered the far younger man having sex with wife Johnna Lynn Flores, 41, in the middle of the night. Wald testified that believing he would be unable to best the youthful Conley in a physical fight and further, that because Flores was being raped, he reached for a gun and shot the assumed intruder several times.
Wald also testified that the couple’s sexless marriage due in part to his erectile dysfunction had, until that point, he had believed, been a mutually agreeable situation:
“She always joked we were the perfect couple … I couldn’t ‘do it’ and she didn’t want to.”
Flores had told Ward that childhood abuse left her unable to have sex, and he added:
“She couldn’t be having sex and be comfortable. I knew if she was having sex, someone was forcing her. These things were logical.”
Conley and Ward had been “well acquainted” before the shooting, prosecutors argued, suggesting that their existing relationship as well as distinctive tattoos on Conley’s neck made it likely Ward recognized the assumed intruder prior to the shooting.
In closing arguments, Assistant State Attorney Chris Moody surmised that the shooting was intentional and that Ward’s inability to function sexually led him to shoot Conley in a jealous rage:
“It’s a personal insult to conduct that kind of activity in a man’s home, his castle. It cuts to the quick. It’s brazen … That kind of deep and personal insult, when you find another man having sex in your living room and you can’t, would make you want to lash out. And he did.”
After Ward was acquitted by a jury in Florida, Flores said that the pair will try to reconcile:
“My husband forgives me 100 percent. But there are of course, trust issues, that’s something we’re gonna go to counseling about, which we should have done prior to getting married, but, uh, we’re gonna work through it, I wouldn’t give that man up for the world.”
Following the acquittal, Flores told reporters: “Because my husband puts me first, he’s taking me to the Waffle House.”
Ward’s attorney said after his client was acquitted in the killing of his wife’s lover that the “same constitution that he defended came to his aid when he needed it.”