Jury selection commenced Monday in the case against former NFL tight end Kellen Winslow II, who faces a slew of sordid charges that cumulatively could put him behind bars for the rest of his life.
As noted by Dan Wetzel of Yahoo.com, the defense could hinge on the argument that Winslow’s sexual misconduct resulted from mental illness sparked by brain trauma from playing football. (As noted by 10news.com, the defense plans to call a pair of psychiatrists to testify, but the substance of their expected testimony isn’t yet known.)
If Winslow pursues this strategy, he’ll essentially be admitting that he’s guilty — but disputing that he’s legally responsible for the crimes. Wetzel suggests that Winslow’s lawyers could try to blame the aberrant behavior on football.
It won’t be easy to make the connection, especially since there’s no way to prove that Winslow suffers from Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy, because there’s still no test for detecting it in living patients. (Even if it could be detected, there’s not enough research as to what it means to have it.) Ultimately, however, the warped reality that regularly unfolds in open court entails one side finding an expert witness who for a fee will provide testimony supporting a point and the other side finding an expert witness who for a few will provide testimony opposing that point.
In the end, the opinions cancel each other out but the jury has a vehicle for showing mercy, regardless of whether there’s any validity to the notion that football made Winslow do the things he allegedly has done.
Opening statements are due to begin on May 20, and at that point Winslow’s lawyers will begin to outline their theory of the case. Given the perils of presenting a “he didn’t do it but if he did it football made him do it” defense, Winslow’s lawyers could essentially concede factual guilt but make the trial about avoiding a finding of legal guilt, by claiming that Winslow’s actions were the product of cranial dysfunction caused by repeated blows to the head.
Will that be “bad for football” if it happens? The sports media’s anti-football crowd will claim that it is, but the reality is that Winslow’s lawyers, faced with apparently overwhelming evidence of guilt, are simply throwing the equivalent of a legal Hail Mary pass, trying to come up with something/anything that could spare Winslow from spending most if not all of the rest of his life behind bars. Whether the facts actually support the argument is immaterial to the question of whether the argument is simply the best/only argument the defense has.