On Thursday, a jury in Tampa, Florida acquitted 70-year-old retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Ralph Wald in the shooting death of his wife’s lover. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Wald’s attorney, Joe Episcopo, invoked Flordia’s “Stand Your Ground” law in defense of his client, arguing that when Wald shot 32-year-old Walter Conley — as Conley was engaged in an act of sexual congress with Wald’s wife, Johnna Lynn Flores, 41 — Wald thought the younger man was a rapist who had broken into his home..
Flores reportedly cried tears of joy when her husband was exonerated, saying to reporters outside the courtroom, “I am elated, absolutely elated.”
When Wald is released from jail, Flores said, the couple plan a celebration. “Because my husband puts me first,” she said, “he’s taking me to Waffle House.”
Waffle House is a southern chain of greasy spoon restaurants, famous for its “scattered, smothered and covered” hash browns, which means that they are made with onions and cheese.
After two days of testimony, the jury ruled that Wald had not committed a crime when he shot Conley in the head and stomach. Wald woke in the middle of the night to find his wife and Conley having sex on the living room floor. The retired Army officer said that he believed that Conley was a rapist, rather than his wife’s paramour.
Prosecutors alleged that Wald, who suffers from erectile dysfunction, killed the other man in a jealous rage. Assistant State Attorney Chris Moody told the jury, “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.”
Flores claims that she was “blackout drunk” on the night in question and remembers nothing about how she ended up having sex with Conley, who resided on Lovers Lane in Riverview, Florida. Conley was an old boyfriend of Flores, who said the she had drunk a large amount of cognac that evening prior to the shooting.
Episcopo, Wald’s defense attorney, argued that Wald was within the bounds of the “Stand Your Ground” law and was under no legal obligation to refrain from using lethal force in protecting himself and his home.
“This is a military man,” Episcopo said. Wald, a decorated Vietnam veteran, was falling back on his training, which dictated “what you do with the enemy…you take your gun and kill the enemy.”
Jurors deliberated for two hours before arriving at the verdict.
Wald said that in spite of everything, he hopes to be able to salvage his marriage.
“That’s my hope,” he said during testimony. “I love my wife.”
Wald even quipped that the combination of his impotence and his wife’s alcoholism made them a good fit, maritally.
“In fact, she would joke a lot with me…that we were a perfect couple,” Wald testified. “She didn’t want to do it, and I couldn’t do it.”