Last Friday was an interesting day for the US Court System. Mary Winkler was sentenced for killing her husband and Paris Hilton was dragged back to jail because a judge had a temper tantrum (yes, I know it’s more complex than that). Sadly, I had trouble finding any news reporting on Mrs. Winkler’s sentencing, or any other events, as the media was too busy chasing down the Paris Story.
I did finally see some coverage and discovered that justice for Matthew Winkler’s death is 210 days of jail plus three years probation.
Some facts we know from Fox News:
1) Mary Winkler killed her husband by shooting him in the back as he lay in bed.
2) Mary Winkler was arrested a day later, 340 miles away.
1) The prosecutor said that bank managers were closing in on Mrs. Winkler for a check kiting scheme that is similar to the scam known as “Nigerian scam.” The prosecution theory of the case was that Mary didn’t want her husband to find out.
2) The defense contends that Mary was an abused wife, and that she didn’t mean to shoot her husband, but that the shotgun went off accidentally
Although the prosecutors were going for murder, the jury convicted Mary of Voluntary Manslaughter.
The judge sentenced Mary to 3 years in prison. We all know that the US Justice System doesn’t use the same math the rest of us do. To regular folk, three years is 1,056 days. To the justice system, it equals 210 days (of which 60 of those days can be served in a mental health treatment facility). They use a complicated formula of good behavior, overcrowding and bureaucratic power struggle (Paris Hilton!) to come up with the actual sentence.
So Mary Winkler gets 210 days plus probation for killing her husband.
I know there are people cheering out there. I’m not one of them. I have no idea what Mrs. Winkler was thinking when she killed her husband. I can only go by the facts I know.
1) She pointed the gun at his back.
2) She didn’t call for help when he was shot.
3) She ran.
I don’t know if Mrs. Winkler was abused as the defense claimed she was. She may have been in very real fear for her life. We really can’t know that, so we have to look at the facts. It’s not easy to separate emotion, and certainly Mrs. Winkler appeared empathic. She’s a slight woman, she dresses modestly and she looks like she should be teaching Sunday school or baking cookies. But when I look at her actions, I see that she killed her husband by shooting him in the back, left him to die and ran.
I don’t think 210 days plus probation is enough punishment for the crime. If she had shot the man while he was coming at her, then called the police for help…any little thing that could show us she really was defending herself or it was an accidental shooting, then I would say 210 days is fair.
I don’t think murder is the answer when you’re not in danger at that moment. I know people have made very compelling arguments about the psychology of long term abuse that leads the abused wife to believe she has no way out but murder. And yet, in this case, there wasn’t much to back up the claim, so how do we know?
We don’t. We have to go on facts. We have to try to be fair using an imperfect system. And somehow, I think the picture of innocent and gentle Mary Winkler overshadowed the fact that a man was killed in his own bed by the woman he was married to.
These are tough issues that our justice system grapples with everyday. What is fair? What is just? What is the truth?
So what do you guys think about Mrs. Winkler’s sentence?
And what do you think about the funky math the courts and prisons used to figure out actual sentences?
Just a note: I probably won’t get online until late today. Or maybe not until tomorrow.