Ashland lawyer Steven Farese Sr. is no stranger to media interviews. He has been interviewed for national publications and television for some of the high profile cases he’s represented. Being the voice of those who need representation is what he enjoys most about practicing law.
“I’m not attracted to these cases; they call me because they might have seen me on TV or in the papers,” Farese said. “I try to keep up with what’s going on by reading two daily newspapers and following some TV and radio,” he said.
“I turn down more than I take and really don’t know when a case will be high profile.”
The case of Mary Winkler, a battered Tennessee minister’s wife accused of killing her husband, was the perfect storm to capture the public’s interest. “With this case all the elements came together,” Farese said. “There was the religious element – especially in the South; the Winkler family is very well known and have had several generations of pastors; and many females in the U.S. can relate to battered women in some way.”
He describes his first visit with Winkler as surreal. She wouldn’t look him in the eye. “She was in shock. I think she was resigned to spending her life in jail,” he said. “She had no money, hopes or dreams when I was asked to represent her pro bono. I put together a team of volunteers, and she went from a possible death sentence to 210 days in jail. She later told me she never expected to see me again.”
Steven Farese’ sister, Kay Farese Turner, represented Winkler – again pro bono – and regained custody for Winkler of her three minor children.
Farese describes media attention of his cases as pogo sticking through a mine field. “It can be helpful, but I have certain ethical concerns,” he said.
“If the other side has a press conference, I can respond to that, and I’m allowed to diffuse things. I have become comfortable with media interviews because I know the facts, and they want to know, but I must be careful.”
The Winkler case, for example, gave Farese the opportunity to put out the message that “there may be more than meets the eye.” As he pondered how he would present Winkler’s case, he heard a popular country song “No One Knows What Goes on Behind Closed Doors.”
“It was like a gift,” he recalls, “because that was true in this case. We stuck to that theme throughout the case.”
Among his media interviews and appearances were Vanity Fair, People Magazine, “Prime Time,” “Court TV,” “City Confidential,” “Good Morning America,” “Nancy Grace,” “Larry King Live” and “Greta Van Sustren.”
Asked if he considers himself compassionate, Farese replied, “I’m overly compassionate because of the example of my father. He represented people with no money and blacks before anyone in Mississippi would.”
There’s no such thing as a favorite case with this lawyer whose practice is 95 percent litigation.
“That’s because in my cases there’s always suffering of victims and families,” he said.
“I am disenchanted with the criminal justice system which has become a feeder industry for prisons. There are far too many people in jail – I know that’s unpopular to say. There are some people who need to go to prison and some who need to stay there, but judges are afraid not to put them in jail because we live in a red state and it’s expected and judges are elected.”
A graduate of the University of Mississippi and the UM School of Law, Farese has lectured extensively throughout the U.S. to trial lawyers on criminal trial techniques. He is president of the Farese, Farese & Farese firm in Ashland and is also licensed in Tennessee.
If he wasn’t practicing law, he says he would probably be a teacher.
Farese and his wife, Suzanne, have three children, one of whom, Steven Jr., is a member of the Farese Law Firm.