Winkler case continues to make national headlines - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Janice Broach

Winkler case continues to make national headlines

When word came last April that a preacher's wife was wanted for murder, reporters from across the country came to the small Mid-South city of Selmer to cover the story.

Now, more than a year later, the case is still making national headlines. NBC's Dateline presented an hour-long special with new information about the trial (click here for more).

Each day Mary Winkler walked into court in Selmer looking unassuming almost dowdy, it was calculated.

"We wanted her to project a conservative person, non flashy-- to dress as she was and is," said Winkler attorney Leslie Ballin. 

Winkler was charged with first degree murder in the death of her preacher husband Matthew.

"Mary Winkler was in deep doo-doo. She needed representation that she didn't have. She didn't have anybody to support her financially or to be with her as a friend," added Ballin.

Along came Leslie Ballin and Steve Farese. A relative of Winkler's contacted an attorney who knew Farese. 

Farese then contacted Ballin and the two decided to take the case pro bono for free even though Winkler's father offered the two $25,000. The offer was not close to the estimated half a million dollar defense Winkler got.

"Leslie called in his friends to he to help pro bono. I called in my friends so it was a network of friendships," said Farese.

But the case was tough. Mary Winkler wasn't talking at first, then she opened up and talked about what she called abuse from Matthew. She also talked about the way he made her dress up for sex with platform shoes, a wig and a short skirt her attorneys said Matthew purchased.

They also said he made her watch pornography.

"He wanted her and made her wear it and mimic the things that were in the films that he made her watch," Farese added. "One of the pictures submitted to the jury had a lady in a black shoe that is just like the white shoe that had been purchased for Mary," he said.

Ballin and Farese said they took Mary's case because it was the right thing to do, not for all of the local and national publicity they got.

"Leslie and I are known well enough in this area we don't need the publicity. These cases grind on you and suck a little bit of life out of you each time you try one," said Farese.

The Dream Team says it gets pretty serious when you have someone's life in your hands.

Mary Winkler is serving her time in an unnamed mental health facility.

She is scheduled to be released August 14th. But her free legal defense continues.

Steve Farese's sister is handling Winkler's custody battle for her three daughters. An attorney in Leslie Ballin's firm is handling the civil case filed by Matthew Winkler's family.

And anybody else needed to make all of that happen is also donating their time.

As for all of the national publicity Farese and Ballin got, People magazine, Larry King and much more, the one show they say they will never do again is the Nancy Grace show. They don't think she is very nice.


Click here to email Janice Broach.

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