Media Frenzies and a Client Named Snake

Media Frenzies and a Client Named Snake

Leslie ballin flips open his mobile phone and scrolls to a picture of three little women at a own family amassing. The caption under it reads: having a laugh with cousins. "she despatched it to me this weekend," he says. "she" is mary winkler, the petite, dark-haired patron whose murder case catapulted ballin into the national highlight in 2006. Thanks to ballin, a accomplice with memphis' ballin, ballin & fishman, and his colleague steve farese, winkler is a unfastened girl no matter her admission that she killed her preacher husband after suffering years of abuse. She regained custody of her daughters in august. In the course of the past 30 years, ballin has dealt with about a hundred and fifty murder instances, protecting a number of tennessee's most infamous criminals. Still, he is some thing but flashy. A massive framed magazine article about him sits at the carpet, going through the wall, in his slightly disheveled 12th-ground downtown office. "my wife did that and i suppose it's too showy," he says, going for walks his arms through his already-messed up hair. "it is now not me. It is simply not my fashion." ballin grew up within the vollintine-evergreen community, one of the oldest in memphis. 3 afternoons a week, as soon as the final bell rang at his grammar faculty, he walked throughout the street to the synagogue to look at hebrew and jewish religion. He also helped out at his father marvin's dry items save by sweeping the floors. A family pal and land developer warned marvin that "the shops were coming and the days of the mother and pa save on the nook had been numbered and he'd better do some thing else," ballin says. "so he went to night regulation faculty and phased out his dry items commercial enterprise and went to work as a attorney." the memory of his father sitting at the floor in the hallway outside his son's bed room past due at night, analyzing for regulation faculty, is still a bright one for ballin. A difficult worker who would possibly have pursued an marketing profession "writing jingles" if he hadn't come to be a legal professional, ballin waited tables, rented out tuxedoes, delivered newspapers, worked at a delicatessen and sold fits at a clothing shop at the same time as playing sports and earning his commercial enterprise diploma from the college of texas at austin. Even then, his "innate desire to do proper" forced him to shield the underdog. "i keep in mind one time at the football subject, a few man was taking gain of a smaller kid on my crew, and after the play was over, i simply went over and punched him through the [helmet] and broke his nostril," he says. "of course i suffered for it." law college observed, and, at age 25, he joined his father at thomas, halliburton, ballin & fortas, which in 1977 become considered a large company with 15 legal professionals. Ballin's first workplace become a closet with "a bit bitty table," a particular task given his claustrophobia. "the door turned into always open," he says, giggling. For 2 years, he paid his dues managing house closings and fender-bender instances before he and his dad struck out on their personal in 1979. Ballin's first jury trial worried an alleged fuel station housebreaking and a purchaser named snake. "snake's report become so terrible that if he had gotten convicted his sentence would have been existence. I used to be so fearful i may want to rarely catch my breath. I will do not forget snake telling me, ‘mr. Ballin, loosen up, it's gonna be all proper. Whatever's gonna be is gonna be,'" he says, mimicking the defendant's raspy, mob-fashion voice. "and lo and behold, it became good enough. He was acquitted." in 1991, whilst fedex pilot michael mullins allegedly murdered his wife quickly earlier than the couple's divorce listening to, ballin teamed up with farese for the first time. (due to the fact the body became determined in mississippi, ballin known as farese, who practices there. The case, however, became in the long run tried in memphis.) the defense crew argued that mullins' ex-lover killed the sufferer in a jealous rage. "at some point of the early movement duration of the trial i used to be questioning precisely wherein [ballin] became going and it ended up he was going the equal location i'd have long gone, except he went by way of a extraordinary path," says farese. "i ought to tell he had an outstanding hold close of the law. He had a very good presentation, a very good demeanor, very calm, very direct. ... He had an almost count number-of-truth manner approximately attending to the problems for the duration of pass-exam. The manner he crafts his questions, the best element you may do is agree with them." the trial lasted eight days and the jury deliberated for less than an hour. The decision: not responsible. "if court docket television would have been available then, that would were the trial of the century," says ballin. "it had sex, tablets, rock 'n' roll, the entirety that sells news. That was a wild, wild case." over time ballin has earned a reputation as a confident, respectful litigator who can be "quite contentious when the time requires it." for the most component, he is learned how to keep his emotions in test—despite the fact that, he admits, the double homicide case wherein he represented a sixteen-yr-old boy who shot his father and hanged his more youthful sister with dog chains to keep her from telling, "got to me." he is also earned the agree with of his friends. It is why farese selected him as co-counsel at the winkler case. On the night of march 22, 2006, ballin and his spouse renelle have been watching the news after they discovered that police had observed the frame of matthew winkler, a 31-12 months-vintage preacher from selmer, the west tennessee metropolis of taking walks tall repute. He become shot inside the again with a 12-gauge shotgun. An amber alert become positioned out for winkler's missing spouse, mary, 32, and their three daughters. "renelle turned to me and said, ‘oh, that negative girl. I'm hoping she's adequate,'" ballin recalls. "and that i became to her and said, ‘adequate? You're concerned approximately her? I bet she's the only who did it.'" farese referred to as him at 7:15 a. M. The following monday. Police had arrested winkler; prosecutors claimed she committed the crime to cowl up a take a look at-kiting scheme that might have destroyed the circle of relatives's finances. Farese talked ballin into becoming a member of him at the case pro bono, and the 2 attorneys drove to selmer, with a skeptical ballin grumbling for the duration of the ninety-mile trip. "this is a waste of our time," he complained to farese. "that is a spouse who's accused of killing her husband. What's so unique approximately that? We [already] strive 3 or four of these a yr." "no, no, this is one of a kind. And it is gonna be large," farese advised him. "simply wait." as they crested the hill near the mcnairy county courthouse, the street dropped, revealing a swarm of satellite vans from courtroom tv, cnn and different country wide networks. And ballin changed his mind. "i found out this was going to be distinct," he says. Moments later, he met winkler and was struck through her "mousy" demeanor. "i am used to some tough, difficult guys with tattoos, missing half their tooth, with a rap sheet a mile long," he says. "this became a extraordinary sort of girl. She was dwelling interior a shell." at trial, ballin and farese painted a image of a girl who had continued a decade of emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Winkler changed into convicted of voluntary manslaughter and, closing june, changed into sentenced to 210 days of confinement, which include the time she'd already spent in jail. She served one more week at the back of bars earlier than being transferred to a intellectual clinic. As for the media frenzy, ballin says, "i was acquainted with being in the media on a local stage, so it did not trouble me." he tries now not to permit the eye visit his head. "i don't don't forget myself unique in any way, shape or shape," he says. "i loathe individuals who walk round with a holier-than-thou mind-set." ballin, in reality, has a zany humorousness. He as soon as wore a ballerina dress to a halloween birthday celebration and, on his fiftieth birthday, donned a king's crown to court. "if we don't laugh approximately some of what we do, it will get you depressed," he says. "we have were given to have a humorousness approximately this stuff. In any other case, we might be crying all the time." just like the billy flynn person in chicago, says ballin (who listens to broadway tunes in his vehicle), when you're in court docket, "you have got to be mild on your ft and supply 'em the antique smooth shoe and don't allow anything smack you between the eyes." with regards to remaining arguments, his motto is "no notes." rather, he crafts a mental define of his summation. "notes screw me up," he says. Ballin's rebellious nature surfaces now and then; he once briefly went to prison after a decide demanded that he pay a $50 excellent or be locked up for contempt. "it takes a lot to get me upset, however when i do, you are aware of it. I act like a juvenile. I yell and act like a infant, however that so very hardly ever takes place—at my age, besides. "if i hadn't come to be a legal professional," he provides, "i probable would have been on the other side of the regulation. I've got a wild streak in me." ballin's son blake, 29, joined the firm 4 years ago. Theirs is a close-knit family. "there is no discord here," ballin says of the six-member firm. "we get along in trial and we get alongside from the instant we get collectively in the morning till the end of the day." that does not prevent the ballins from engaging in a little pleasant opposition, even though. Take, as an example, state-of-the-art signal-in sheet. "oh, this'll kill marvin," ballin says, pointing to the listing of twenty-two clients who have visited him so far these days. "plus, there have been likely a very good six or 8 people that have been in custody that had been not capable of come to the office." marvin, alternatively, has seen six. Blake has met with 10. "it is an average day," ballin says of his workload. "i cannot do one thing at a time."