Mary Winkler case brings abuse to forefront

Charlotte Ramos lives in Syracuse, N.Y. and has been following the Mary Winkler trial from day one.

Once a member of the Church of Christ, Ramos said her life with her husband was less than perfect and that she, too, experienced abuse and the pressure to be perfect.

Ramos was disappointed on Thursday to find out that Winkler was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the death of her preacher husband, Matthew, last year.

”Not everything is wonderful behind closed doors,” said Ramos in a phone interview. ”Domestic violence needs to be addressed. That’s not the way a home and family should be.”

Mary Winkler’s story of abuse at the hands of her husband has struck a chord with many women across the country who identify as a survivor or victim of domestic abuse.

When Ramos gets into a discussion with others about Winkler’s case or other domestic situations, the question that bothers her most is, “why don’t they just leave?”

“It’s a situation where you are controlled, belittled and brainwashed, and it’s not that easy,” Ramos said.

Ramos, along with countless others, posted a response to a poll question on The Jackson Sun’s Web site regarding Mary Winkler’s case.

Another was Kathy Bright, of Selmer, who felt the conviction Winkler received was too harsh because of the life of abuse Winkler said she led while with her husband.

Not all of Winkler’s supporters were women; a few men said they felt for Winkler during her testimony.

”I had sympathy for her,” said Perry Heatherly, of Union City, during a phone interview. ”But she took a person’s life. If I were a juror, I would say she should pay for what she did.”

Jack Curtis, of Calhoun City, Miss., said that women are sometimes pushed to the edge.

”I hope this (Winkler’s story) will make men think twice when they are mistreating their wives,” Curtis said. ”A lot of abuse goes on in this country.”

Local criminal trial specialist, Daniel Taylor, of the law firm Spragins, Barnett & Cobb, explained defense attorneys can sometimes use a defense called battered women’s syndrome to explain the state of mind of a person accused of a violent crime.

”There must be actual evidence or proof that the husband or partner has battered or beaten the victim,” Taylor said. ”If there’s no evidence then it’s not an effective defense.”

When there’s actual evidence, a jury could consider the defendant’s state of mind during the criminal act, he added.

”It may not generate a not guilty verdict, but it could mean a lesser sentence,” Taylor said.

It also helps if there is a psychiatric opinion on the victim’s state of mind and if the victim shows classic symptoms of being abused, he added.

Executive director of the Wo/men’s Resource and Rape Assistance Program (WRAP) Margaret Cole said the signs of an abused person are something she sees every day.

”They will try to minimize what a person has done to them, they are not going to want to talk about it and their self-esteem is usually very low,” said Cole, who also added that Mary Winkler displayed these symptoms.

Elizabeth McDaniel believes 100 percent in Mary Winkler’s testimony of abuse and doesn’t think jail time would be effective in helping her heal.

”I think she needs probation, therapy and being around her children,” said McDaniel, who did not want her hometown to be released. ”Women in similar situations need to report it and confide in someone that will help them. There are too many ways to get help nowadays.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday April 23, 2007.
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