She was "the panther of Buzios," a sleek Brazilian beauty who liked to boast. "I'm rich, beautiful and good in a fight.

He was a Rio playboy, without money or a job, who used his languorous good looks to marry -- and later left -- three Brazilian heiresses.

Together, Angela Diniz, 32, and Raul "Doca" Street, 45, shared her villa in Buzios, one of the most sought-after anchorages of the 500-mile Brazilian Riviera. Their bedroom window overlooked the sparkling white sands and deep azure waters of the Atlantic.

But after two months, Angela Diniz grew tired of financing Street's expensive tastes: Italian suits, French cognacs, and American cigarettes.And at the end of one long, hot day of vodka, backgammon and quarrels on the beach, the independent-minded Diniz told him to move out and make room for a replacement.

Barefoot and dressed only in a halter top and a flowered bikini bottom, Diniz never got a chance to prove she was good in a fight. The 6-foot-1 Street fired a semi-automatic Beretta 7.65, and within seconds, her blood splashed over an ornamental urn and a whitewashed love seat, slowly collecting in a dark pool on the glazed patio tiles.

At the October 1979 trial, Street's counsel was a former supreme court justice who painted Diniz as "a luxurious Babylonian prostitute," "a lascivious woman" and "a scarlet woman of the kind we have been warned about in the apocalypse." Street, he argued repeatedly, suffered "a violent moral aggression" and killed Diniz out of "legitimate defense of his honor."

During a break in the trial, a cluster of women loudly applauded the tall and tanned defendant. One woman waved a sign reading, "Doca, we're with you."

Forensic testimony at the trial showed Street shot Angela Diniz once in the face, paused to unjam his pistol, then fired twice into her upraised arm, and three more times into her head.

The jury of two women and five men found Street guilty only of involuntary homicide -- a verdict given on the basis of the argument that he acted to defend his "masculine honor." The judge let him walk out the door with a two-year suspended sentence.

Brazilian media blanketed the trial. Television channels broke into regular programming to bring flashes live from the courtroom. The crime, the verdict, the sentence -- and its message -- were broadcast across Brazil.

What ensued was, in the words of one feminist, "a hunting season on women in Brazil." One newspaper's crime survey showed that in 1980, in Sa o Paulo alone, 772 women were murdered by their husbands or lovers. Few authors of these "crimes of passion" were severely punished.

Last month, Brazil's national symbol of machismo returned to court for a retrial. Doca Street could no longer walk leisurely up the courthouse steps, bestowing leering grins on his female cheerleaders. Instead, 20 military police had to force a corridor through a mob of 500 angry feminists who greeted the aristocratic playboy with loud shouts of "Jail the gigolo," and with banners bearing the women's movement slogan: "Quem Ama, Nao Mata" -- "Lovers Don't Kill."

"D-Day for Doca," drum-rolled the local tabloids.

This time he got 15 years and was taken away in a paddy wagon, and was put in a cell with six alleged muggers. His lawyer immediately appealed the verdict, and he was released after three hours.

It was the same crime, the same courtroom, the same testimony and the same penal code. What had changed was Brazil.

The Changing Climate

Long pinpricked by a vocal minority of feminists, Brazilian machismo is now being threatened by slow, massive shifts among mainstream Brazilian women.

"We make much more noise than our small numbers would suggest," says Rio feminist Rose Marie Murario, still flushed with victory after assembling 19 women's groups from Rio, Sa o Paulo and Belo Horizonte to picket Doca's retrial. Murario, head of the Brazilian Women's Center, estimates that there are 10,000 militant feminists among Brazil's 60 million women.

However, she adds, the feminists have a strong impact on Brazilian public opinion through the media. The most vivid example of the changes taking place is "TV Woman." In less than two years, this 3 1/2-hour morning show has won 8 million daily viewers. In addition to fashion tips and recipes for fruit-based hair shampoos, a house lawyer regularly discusses women's legal rights and a sexologist offers a frank daily sex class.

Sipping coffee and sitting cross-legged on a big cushion, Marilia Gabriela, 33, the show's hostess, interviews guests on such topics as day-care centers, crimes of passion, postponed marriages, the right to remain single, Brazil's new divorce law and abortion, which is widely practiced but remains illegal. Gabriela receives 500 letters a day from viewers.

Surveys show that Brazilian women are increasingly well educated and are steadily moving into the work force. In the last decade, the number of university women quintupled, and the proportion of working women rose from 19 percent to 33 percent.

In Congress, Brazil's only female senator, Eunice Michiles from the state of Amazonas, is sponsoring a bill to revoke a law that permits automatic annulment of a marriage if the husband discovers within the first 10 days of marriage a "basic error" -- that his wife is not a virgin.

Most "Brasileiras" remain confined to traditional, low-paying jobs -- housemaids, rural workers, washerwomen, seamstresses, nurses, clerks, primary school teachers. But in the Amazonian frontier states, women are moving into nontraditional trades, such as carpenters' helpers on construction sites. Overall, women earn an average of $40 a week -- half the average earnings for men.

"There are more freedoms," acknowledges feminist sociologist Helieth Saffioti. "But women are still economically dependent on men -- and that way I can't see how they can become liberated."

A study of 1,080 married women in Rio and Sa o Paulo found that 89 percent did not have their own bank accounts, 70 percent were not allowed to go out in the evening without their husbands, and 59 percent had husbands who did not want their wives to wear eye-catching clothes.

The Macho Club

Hoping to halt any further erosion of these traditional male values, Rio's social columnist Ibrahim Sued announced last year the creation of a "Macho Club." As self-appointed president, Sued set the tenets: "Women like to submit to men"; and "Women should only go out accompanied by their husband, but he should be able to go out without her, whenever he wants, without explanations."

Setting a role model, Sued is frequently photographed with his sport shirt open to the navel, exposing a mass of silver hair and a heavy gold medallion resting on his paunch. At the recent marriage of his daughter, Sued gave the following marital advice: "Be submissive." And, "When you have a cold or cough, sleep on a cot so as not to disturb your husband."

After a few weeks, the club -- whose motto is "The Macho Is Always Ready When His Woman Wants Him" -- withered from the headlines.

In September, Nova Magazone, a Brazilian counterpart of Cosmopolitan, published a survey of 3,600 women. In it, 65 percent said they wanted more sex. To fulfil this need, 30 percent of the married respondents said they betray their husbands.

It is against this backdrop of conflicts and social change that Brazilian women have become increasingly irate over the upsurge of men killing women to defend the masculine concept of honor.

"Defense of the honor is like a consumer complaint -- if you buy a defective television, you get rid of it. Women aren't bought, they are not the property of anyone," says Ana Terezina Manssur Mercadane, 23, a statistician at the Banco do Brasil.

"Angela Diniz was one of the most talked about women in Brazil," says Rose Marie Murario, the Rio feminist. "Through television, her killing and Doca's suspended sentence reached everyone -- I am convinced the murders increased because of the precedent."

After Doca's suspended sentence in October 1979, some of the most publicized killings took place in Minas Gerais, a hilly interior state notorious for its conservatism. In one case, Geraldo Lima de Barros, a 50-year-old truck driver in Juiz de Fora, had already once discovered that his wife, Helena Aparecida, was cheating on him.

"The first time," he told a reporter, "she got down and on her knees and cried so much it wet my shoe." He forgave her, but out of shame, sold his house and moved his family.

The second time, Geraldo returned home unexpectedly to find Helena gone, and cosmetics spread across her dresser. He found her dancing in a local nightclub with an unknown man. This time, he shot her four times with his .32-caliber pistol.

At the trial, Helena's three brothers and two brothers-in-law stepped forward to testify to Geraldo's good character.

"I would rather see my sister dead than each day in the hands of a different man," said one brother.

Geraldo pleaded legitimate defense of his honor, and an all-male jury quickly absolved him of the crime. One week earlier, in the same courtroom, another all-male jury absolved Jose Marco Pinheiro, a construction worker, who knifed his wife to death after he discovered she was betraying him.

"My style is to work with men," said the judge, Joao Sidney Afonso, when asked by a reporter for O Globo, one of Rio's largest newspapers, why he didn't allow women on his juries. "In crimes of passion, where a man kills his wife, women jurors will invariably convict."

The judge argued that his courthouse did not have adequate sanitary facilities for "the fragile sex." Women, he said, rarely serve as jurors in the 300 district courts of Minas Gerais, Brazil's third most populous state.

In response, even the judge's wife told reporters: "I think it's absurd what Sidney's doing. I'm against it, and I always tell him: Women should be jurors."

The local lawyers' association blasted the judge's stand as "stupid, reactionary and illegal." The local Center of Women's Rights painted city walls with: "In Minas, a marriage certificate is a death warrant."

Doca's Retrial

Alarmed by the courtroom lenience shown in these and many other murders, Brazilian feminists started to demand a retrial of Doca to show that "legitimate defense of honor" was no longer valid in modern-day Brazil.

Acting on an appeal from Diniz's family, a higher court annulled the jury's involuntary homicide verdict on the grounds that the decision was "manifestly contrary to the proof contained in the legal records."

In the popular press, daily headlines built up the tension: "Angela's son hates her killer," "Angela's killer doesn't want to go to jail." Newspapers refreshed their readers with the steamy details of the case:

How Doca's only known job before the killing had been a stint as a swimming instructor at a Miami hotel;

* How he met Diniz at a party at the house of his third wife, Adelita;

* How, on leaving Adelita, he threw his clothes into several suitcases. But they were her bags. So he wrapped his clothes up in a sheet. But it was her sheet. Finally, carrying all his clothes in his arms, he walked out of her Sa o Paulo home.

The morning of the trial dawned sunny, and swarms of food vendors arrived early, eager to cash in. During the 18-hour trial, as many as 2,000 onlookers, many of them feminists, packed the courthouse square. The judge's opening words were drowned out by a television reporter conducting a live interview with Milton Villas Boas Diniz, 18, the oldest of Diniz's three children.

"Contrary to what that guy Doca goes spreading around, she was a very good woman for all the family," said young Diniz. "I wish I could kill him with my stare," he said and proceeded to stare at Doca for most of the next 18 hours.

For his part, Doca adopted a contrite, downcast pose and stared at the floor for most of those 18 hours, ignoring hoarsely whispered entreaties from the cameramen to "look over here." At one point, the black-robed judge stopped the proceedings to place Doca where he wouldn't overheat from the television lights, but where he would also afford the cameramen a better angle. The trial continued straight through the night because the judge said the court could not afford lodgings for the jurors.

Clerks read depositions from the first trial. The testimony recounted how Diniz had ordered Doca to leave. He jumped in his coffee-colored Maverick and roared off in a spray of sand, then wheeled around, returned and asked her to reconsider. She threw a leather shoulder bag at him. He shot her, placed the gun by the body, and then drove to Sa o Paulo, 387 miles to the south.

Despite a reported $21,000 fee, Doca's new defense lawyer, Humberto Teles, did not match the oratory of his predecessor. Teles argued that Doca Street could not be a symbol of machismo because his grandfather, an English industrialist in Sa o Paulo, was reportedly the first factory owner in Brazil to pay equal wages to men and women.

Teles described Diniz as "a woman who traded her three children for Rio's nightlife," and called Doca, now 47, merely "a big boy with a gypsy soul." Doca, he said, is now a model citizen who lives with his mother in Sa o Paulo and has sworn off night life. Now gainfully employed as a Volkswagen salesman, Doca even won an efficiency award from his dealership.

There was little suspense as to the outcome. Based on interviews with the judge and jurors, a newspaper printed the 5-to-2 guilty verdict and the 15-year sentence -- the day the trial started. Citing this newspaper article, the defense argued that the jury was biased, and appealed the decision.

Still, the defense lawyer had harsh words for the feminist demonstrators, who, he charged, had "manipulated public opinion" against his client. "They are Hitler's daughters," he said, "fascist women . . . with a clear homosexual component."

"Juries understand that a man can kill a woman when his masculine dignity is offended -- in this case, she hit him in the face with a bag," the lawyer said after the trial.

But others believe that Doca's defeat will sound the swan song of the "legitimate defense of the honor" in Brazil.

In the two weeks after that verdict, juries in the conservative state of Minas Gerais deliberated three separate cases in which husbands killed their wives out of what was called "legitimate defense of honor." In each case, the defendant was found guilty.

"The importance of the Doca Street decision," says Heleno Claudio Fragaso, special prosecutor in the case, "is that husbands now know they can't kill their wives."