Closing arguments in Kellen Winslow rape trial: 'You hold this man's life in your hands'
(Photo: Nelvin C. Cepeda, AP)
VISTA, Calif. — Former NFL star Kellen Winslow II preyed upon vulnerable women for sexual pleasure and threw some of them away like trash after raping them — part of a “perverse” and deviant pattern that is supported by a "mountain of evidence," a San Diego County prosecutor told a jury here Tuesday.
The prosecutor, Dan Owens, also called Winslow a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and urged the jury to use “common sense” to deliver justice for his five alleged victims, including the three accusing him of rape.
“Lightning certainly doesn’t strike twice, let alone five times,” Owens said during his closing argument to the jury.
It was the ninth and perhaps most important day of the Winslow trial — the day that both sides summarized their cases and urged the jury to come to opposite conclusions.
Will Winslow spend the rest of his life in prison after earning $40 million in the NFL from 2004 to 2013?
Or will the jurors find reasonable doubt about his guilt?
After hearing final arguments Tuesday in court, the jury of eight men and four women now will deliberate that privately. And it’s not likely to be an easy call. Winslow’s attorney, Marc Carlos, tried to make sure of that Tuesday when he urged them to consider each alleged victim’s case individually and not collectively under the notion that smoke means fire.
“You hold this man’s life in your hands,” Winslow’s attorney, Marc Carlos, told them before asking them to find his client not guilty.
Four of Winslow’s alleged victims range in age from 55 to 78, including a hitchhiker and homeless woman. The other is now 33 but says she was unconscious when Winslow raped her at age 17 in 2003. Each testified at a combined trial that started May 20 and now will hinge on their credibility in three cases of felony rape and two cases of misdemeanor sexual conduct.
Winslow, 35, has pleaded not guilty. In opening statements on May 20, another attorney for Winslow, Brian Watkins, told the jury the case involved “no-strings-attached” consensual sex and that Winslow cheated on his wife “numerous times.” But Winslow announced in court Monday that he decided not to testify against himself, leaving the jury without any direct evidence of consent in these alleged sexual encounters.
On Tuesday, Carlos instead methodically raised issues with each alleged victim, suggesting they were mistaken, didn’t personally identify his client or were fabricating events, possibly for money.
This gave the jury a set of dueling arguments to consider: In Winslow’s defense, each has its own weaknesses that could boost a case of reasonable doubt. On the other hand, Owens told the jurors that the law allows them to consider a pattern.
If they decide to convict Winslow on one or more certain sex crimes in this case, they may conclude that he was “disposed or inclined to commit sexual offenses.” Based on that, they also can conclude that the defendant was likely to commit and did commit other sex offenses charged in the case.
Owens scoffed at the notion that the alleged victims “must all be liars” and “must be incredible actresses as well.”
“C’mon ladies and gentlemen, use your common sense,” Owens said to the jury before asking them to convict Winslow.
Owens said this is not a case of “he said, she said.”
“This case is a 'she said' and 'she said' and 'she said' and 'she said' and 'she said,'” Owens said, raising his voice. “Five separate women.”
But that's the big problem with the government's case, Carlos said. In his view, what each of the five women said at trial wasn't enough to convict his client or raised reasonable doubt about his guilt.
In the case of Jane Doe No. 4, the alleged rape victim from 2003, Carlos said she “adopted” the memory of her rape and described the details of her incident differently at the trial than what she allegedly told others previously. For example, she testified the rape happened at a house, though others say she said it was in a car.
In the rape case of Jane Doe 2, the homeless woman from last May, Carlos said there’s no independent evidence to support the case beyond her word. She alleged Winslow choked her, but there were no marks left on her neck when she was examined afterward.
In the rape case of Jane Doe 1, the hitchhiker from March 2018, Carlos stressed that she was caught lying on the witness stand about her alcoholism and didn’t run away from her alleged kidnapper when she had a clear chance. She also “went about her day shopping” after the incident, he said.
Even though there is no “set profile” for how a rape victim should act, “it’s not this way,” Carlos said of Jane Doe 1.
“The defense did an effective job of breaking down each Jane Doe and imploring the jury to assess them as separate cases,” said San Diego criminal defense attorney David P. Shapiro, who is not involved in the case but is monitoring it.
Owens said other circumstantial evidence supports the charges, including corroborating evidence from spouses, friends and law enforcement. He said Carlos was trying to use “extraneous” facts to “chip away” at their credibility.
“Don’t let him pull the wool over your eyes,” Owens told the jurors. He said Winslow has the name, money and fame.
"But who does he choose to victimize?" Owens asked. Owens said the victims were people who were unlikely to report what happened or unlikely to be believed if they did.
Now the question is whether the jury believed them.
“The cumulative effect of their testimonies, regardless of individual inconsistencies and credibility issues, may have become overwhelming to the jury,” said Matthew Maddox, an attorney who is observing the case and is founding partner of The Maddox Law Firm in Connecticut. “The prosecutor was effective in continually returning to the `five victims’ and linking them together to buttress their individual stories."
The jurors will consider 12 criminal counts against Winslow: seven felonies and five misdemeanors involving the five women. It's possible they could convict him on some charges and not others, delivering a mixed verdict.
"Every single charge must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt," Carlos told the jurors. "Get that through your head."