Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A "Perfect" Life: Mary Winkler Story

"Slutty'" Shoes

During the trial, Mary Winkler seemed to have regained some of the spark that college friends said was missing from the emotionally blank young woman displayed in her arrest mug shots.

She dressed conservatively but with modest flair, and she was clearly engaged by the proceedings.

Her trial testimony proved key, although it was hardly the X-rated subject matter that Ballin had hinted at.

She revealed that her husband pressed her to engage in oral and anal sex, which she viewed as unnatural. She said he insisted that she dress up "slutty" in an Afro wig, miniskirts and footwear fit for a hooker.

Mary Winkler
Mary Winkler

In a brilliant show-and-tell gambit, defense attorneys Farese and Ballin entered the wig and shoes into evidence. During her testimony, Winkler shyly gripped one of the white platform shoes by its eight-inch stiletto heel.

Any defense that calls a defendant to the witness stand is taking a risk. But it paid off in this case.

Farese and Ballin used the boilerplate defense for gunshot cases: Their client was holding the gun, but she did not mean to use it.

Winkler admitted that she pointed a shotgun at her husband's back but said she did not intend to pull the trigger. She indicated she was in a state of near delirium over their marriage. Their checking account was overdrawn by $5,000, and she was under pressure from Matthew over the check-kiting scheme.

Matthew Winkler
Matthew Winkler

When the gun "accidentally" fired, she said, her instinct was to flee. She packed up her daughters and drove to the beach.

"All I knew was that the stupid gun had went off, and nobody would believe me and they would just take my girls away from me," she testified.

Winkler said she had suffered silently through years of sexual, physical and psychological abuse. She demurely reviewed Matthew's sexual tastesincluding internet pornography as a prelude to  sexand said he had punched and kicked her.

It was a classic abused-spouse defense.

Yet, during her initial statement to police after she was arrested, Mary specifically said that Matthew had not abused her in any way.

Why had she changed her story?

"I was ashamed," she said. "I didn't want anybody to know about Matthew."

It seemed like a crucial contradiction on which the prosecution could capitalize. But prosecutor Freeland let the opportunity slip by.

The defense offered some corroborating evidence two people who witnessed Matthew's temper; the friends who saw Mary's black eye and watched her cower when she was in her husband's presence.

During his presentation of evidence, Freeland attempted to focus attention on the Internet scam and the couple's financial problems. He was able to land a few jabs but never a knockout punch.

Freeland later insisted that Matthew Winkler was "a good daddy who didn't abuse anybody." But defense attorney Farese countered, "If you look up spousal abuse in the dictionary, you're going to see Mary Winkler's picture."

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