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Last week, speculation emerged that the Kellen Winslow II criminal trial could include a defense based on brain trauma from playing football. On Monday, it became clear that football will not be blamed for Winslow’s alleged misconduct.
Winslow’s attorney, Brian Watkins, delivered an opening statement that lasted less than 10 minutes, even though the case features five different alleged victims. During the opening statement, Watkins at no point conceded that Winslow engaged in misconduct, focusing on notions of consent, mistaken identity, and charges that became embellished, exaggerated, and/or flat-out fabricated due to media coverage regarding the claims made by other alleged victims. It will be extremely difficult if not flat-out impossible for Watkins to pivot during trial to a defense premised on Winslow being factually guilty but not legally responsible due to head injuries.
Regardless of the basis for Winslow’s defense, it was stunning to see so little time devoted by Watkins to his first chance to sell the jury on his client’s innocence. (Even though jurors aren’t supposed to make up their minds until after the trial ends, try watching a football game between two teams you have no attachment to without quickly picking a side to root for.) There was no passion, no indignation, no outrage regarding the notion that a man faces imprisonment for the rest of his life based on shoddy police work, unreliable witnesses, and a media-fueled frenzy that resulted in one of the alleged victims jumping to conclusions about Winslow based merely on the fact that she became aware of other charges against him.
Instead, the most memorable moment of the defense’s opening statement came when Watkins admitted that Winslow repeatedly has been unfaithful to his wife, not via “affairs” but through no-strings-attached sex. That’s not the image that the jury should be carrying home for the day, given that the actual taking of testimony regarding sexual activity that crossed the line from immoral to illegal won’t begin until Tuesday.