Shanna Gardner pleads not guilty in court with attorney Jose Baez

Posted at 9:01 AM, November 3, 2023


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Court TV) — The woman accused of conspiring with her new husband to murder her ex has formally pleaded not guilty at her arraignment Thursday with one of Florida’s most famous attorneys by her side.

Jose Baez stands with his client Shanna Gardner

Shanna Gardner, who’s accused of conspiring with her new husband to murder her ex, has formally pleaded not guilty at her arraignment with her attorney, Jose Baez, by her side. (COURT TV)

Shanna Gardner was extradited from Washington to Florida on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, solicitation to commit a capital felony and child abuse related to her ex-husband, Jared Bridegan‘s 2022 murder. Bridegan, a 33-year-old Microsoft executive, was shot and killed while driving in Jacksonville Beach in a plot that has led to charges against three people.

Thursday’s hearing was brief but informative. Gardner stood next to Baez at the podium as the lead prosecutor for the State read the indictment aloud.

Baez calmly entered Garder’s plea of not guilty and asked for discovery from the State in this case, which the judge said he could have four weeks to review.

The judge then made an unexpected, although not uncommon request to join Gardner’s case with her current husband, Mario Fernandez-Saldana, who is facing similar charges in the alleged plot to kill Bridegan.

The State has said they intend to seek the death penalty in Fernandez’s case, in which they expect to call over 100 witnesses. Prosecutors also said they currently have seven terabytes of evidence in the case. A third suspect in the case, Henry Tenon, pleaded guilty and admitted to prosecutors that he pulled the trigger and is expected to be one of the witnesses to testify against Fernandez.

The State Attorney’s Office clarified in an email to Court TV that they will be seeking the death penalty for Gardner as well and have filed their formal notice of intent with the Clerk of Court.

Kirsten Bridegan sits in court

Kirsten Bridegan sat in the gallery as her late husband’s ex-wife, Shanna Gardner, appeared for her arraignment in his murder. (Court TV)

Baez rose to fame in 2008 when he began representing Casey Anthony, a woman charged with murdering her young daughter Caylee. Anthony had faced the death penalty and was acquitted on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter of a child. Court TV televised Anothony’s 2011 trial, which is available to watch entirely on

WATCH: Jose Baez delivers opening statements in FL v. Casey Anthony

On his website, Baez claims to be known for his “passion, hard work and brilliant courtroom strategies” and lists among his clients millionaire Gary Giordano, who was a suspect in the disappearance of Robyn Gardner. Baez also briefly represented Harvey Weinstein in New York, where the former movie mogul was convicted of rape and sexual assault.

Baez said in Thursday’s hearing that he has brought on another attorney who is an expert in capital cases, as he works to catch up on his Continuing Legal Education (CDL) to get him prepared for the case.

Following the arraignment, Jared’s father and sister provided a statement to the media:

“If Jared were here today, he would look out at everyone, smile and express his appreciation to you. But, he’s not here today. Almost two years ago, my wife and I lost our youngest son to murder. Our children lost their dear brother. His wife, Kirsten, lost the love of her life. Jared’s children lost their father. His death has impacted many. The outpouring of support for Jared has been overwhelming and heartfelt. Jared was quiet, full of love, and one of the best fathers you can imagine. I think those responsible thought no one would care about Jared… but his family cared, all of his children cared, our community cared, and so did many wonderful people from all over the country. We cannot thank you enough for your love, prayers and support that you’ve given us. We are eager, as I’m sure you are, for the full truth to come out. We are very confident the state attorney will ultimately provide ‘justice for Jared.”

The next hearing in Garnder and Fernandez’s case is scheduled for Dec. 1.