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Mary Winkler trial updates: Highlights from jury selection, testimony


Highlights from Wednesday, April 18:

  • Mary Winkler tookthe stand shortly before 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, wearing a black printdress and white sweater. As has been her practice throughout theproceedings, she also wore her wedding band and a cross necklace.
  • Underdirect questioning, Mary Winkler told jurors that she asked Matthew fora divorce in 2002, after the family moved to McMinnville, Tenn. “Heabsolutely denied it,” Mary Winkler said was her husband’s response tothe request. “That would not be allowed.” When asked by defenseattorney Steve Farese Jr. why she wanted a divorce, Mary Winklerreplied, “It was just so bad and I just wanted out. He could just be somean.”
  • The testimony became graphic as Farese questioned MaryWinkler about the sexual abuse she said she endured during the last fewyears of marriage. Farese produced a plastic sack and asked MaryWinkler to remove its contents, placing them on the ledge in front ofher. She took out a flashy, high-heeled platform shoe and brown wig,saying Matthew Winkler bought them for her to wear in private, againsther wishes. She has not looked at the jury since, but has answeredquestions with her head down.
  • Photographs called pornographicimages and recovered by a private forensics firm were introduced intoevidence after being identified by Mary Winkler as the ones she hadseen on the computer inside the family’s home.
  • Under directexamination, Mary Winkler said all bank deposits, withdrawls andtransfers between checking accounts were made by her at MatthewWinkler’s request. She also said the cash she had with her when shefled the couple’s home after the shooting was money that MatthewWinkler asked her to withdraw in case the couple’s accounts were closedby bank officials.
  • The following exchange between MaryWinkler and Farese concluded her testimony: “Did you intentionally,purposely, kill your husband?”
    “No sir.”
    “Did you love your husband?”
    “Yes sir.”
    “Do you still love him?”
    “Yes sir.”
    “Even through all that?”
    “Yes sir.”
    “When you were questioned by the authorities, why didn’t you tell them the whole truth?”
    “I was ashamed.”
  • Undercross-examination, Mary Winkler told prosecuting attorney Walt Freelandthat no friend or family member knew details of the trouble in thecouple’s marriage or with their financial situation or indebtedness.”There was never anyone I could absolutely open up or confide in.”
  • BrandyJones, who described herself as a best friend to Mary Winkler and thewife of Glen Jones, Matthew Winkler’s best friend, was called to rebuttestimony that Mary Winkler did not know how to use a gun. Jones saidthat she was part of a conversation with Mary and Matthew Winkler andGlen Jones in August 2005 when Mary Winkler advised her to learn how touse a gun if one was to be kept in her home, which was being discussedby the Joneses. “She stated that Matthew had taken her to the firingrange to learn how to shoot it so that she would be comfortable,”Brandy Jones testified.
  • Walt Freeland gave closing statementsfor the prosecution, tellng jurors, “As difficult as your job is, it’sreally a pretty simple thing you have to decide.” For a first-degreemurder conviction, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt thatMary Winkler unlawfully killed, that she acted intentionally and thatthe killing was premeditated.
  • Steve Farese and LeslieBallin each presented final arguments for Mary Winkler, with Ballinfocusing on the technical side of rendering verdict and Fareseappealing to jurors’ emotions, life experiences and empathy for thedefendant. “If you looked up spousal abuse in the dictionary, you’regoing to see Mary Winkler’s picture looking back at you,” Farese said.”Mary Winkler sits before you innocent of any crime. She is coveredwith the veil of the presumption of innocence and she is protected bythe greatest hurdle in the free world … ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.'”

Highlights from Tuesday, April 17:

  • Donna Nelson, forensics specialist for the Tennessee Bureau ofInvestigation, testified today about evidence she and other agentsdiscovered, documented and removed from the Winklers’ home. Sheresponded to questions from both sides’ attorneys about faint bloodstains on pillows recovered from the bedroom shared by Patricia andAllie Winkler, which she characterized as their blood. Undercross-examination, Nelson was asked by the state whether those faint,small stains would be consistent with the amount of blood created by achild’s bloody nose or scrape, to which Nelson replied that she did notknow.
  • Sgt. Jimmy Jones of the Tennessee Highway Patrol testified about a2003 encounter he had with Matthew Winkler when the family lived inMcMinnville, Tenn. Jones said Matthew Winkler was upset about a barkingdog and acted like “a bully” in front of Jones’ extended family whilethey were visiting Jones’ terminally ill grandmother. The 92-year-oldwoman lived in the same sub-division as the Winklers.
  • Jonathan Allen, a senior at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson,Tenn., also testified. Allen was a member of the Central church’s youthgroup when Matthew Winkler worked as youth minister there, and said heconsidered himself a friend of Matthew Winkler’s. Under directquestioning, he said he had heard Matthew yell at Mary “a few times”but that “it seemed like it was a normalcy, husband and wife arguments.”
  • Rudy Thompsen was the final witness of the morning session, beforejurors were excused for lunch. He first met Mary and Matthew Winklerwhen they visited the Central church during a tryout for the youthministry position, Thompsen said. He testified that he saw Mary Winklerat worship one Sunday morning after Matthew Winkler was hired, and thatshe had a black eye. “She told me she was horsing around with the girlsand one of them hit her,” Thompsen said.
  • Thompsen also testified that he and his family have allowed MaryWinkler to live with them since her release on bond in August 2006, andthat she talks often about her daughters and about events thattranspired during her marriage to Matthew Winkler. He said she seemsmuch happier now than she did during her marriage.
  • Lori Boyd, a former secretary at the Central church in McMinnville,testified that Matthew at first seemed friendly and well-mannered butlater spoke rudely to her and expected her to complete tasks for himthat weren’t part of her job description. She said he often spokeabruptly or rudely to his wife and had locked his two older daughters,Patricia and Allie, in his office on more than one occasion so he couldrun errands. Under direct questioning, Boyd also said Matthew Winklerabused a church credit card’s use, purchasing items for church use thatshe never saw at the building.
  • Tim Parish, pulpit minister at Central, began his testimony bysaying that he had informed both sides that a statement prepared by theTennessee Bureau of Investigation from an interview he had givencontained errors. Parish said phrases and details he did not remembersaying or giving were included in the statement.
  • Parish testified under direct questioning that though the Winklers’marriage wasn’t like his own, he saw Matthew Winkler filling a need formore structure and discipline within the church’s youth group duringthe 11 months the two men worked together. Parish described theWinklers as private people, but said many ministers’ families tend towithdraw because of the scrutiny they face from members.
  • Tabatha Freeman, a younger sister of Mary Winkler, said hersister’s visits became increasingly infrequent the longer she wasmarried. She said Matthew Winkler once called all his wife’s siblingstogether because “he watned to explain to us that our sister wasn’t oursister anymore in the way we grew up and she would never be that wayfor us again.”
  • Dr. Lynne Zager, retained by the defense to perform forensicevaluations on Mary Winkler, said Matthew Winkler threatened his wifeand abused her in many ways. She detailed incidents of sexual abuse inthe Winkler marriage that were related to her by Mary Winkler, as wellas physical abuse, such as pinching and shoving. Zager said MaryWinkler was verbally and emotionally abused, as well, and that herhusband’s need for control created a situation in which Mary Winklerbecame a battered wife.
  • Zager said that Matthew Winkler became upset in the early morninghours of March 22 because their toddler, Brianna, was crying. Zagersaid Mary Winkler told her that her husband put his hand over Brianna’snose and mouth in an attempt to silence her, and tha he had done thatbefore with his older daughters, Patricia and Allie. Afterward, Zagersaid Mary Winkler told her that “she went to the ktichen to makecoffee, just like a normal day. At some point as she was making thecoffee, she stopped. In terms of what she described to me, sheremembered hearing the sound of the gun shooting. She rememberedhearing it and that it was louder than she thought it would be and thesmell of it.”
  • Zager said Mary Winkler suffered from mild depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, which she said began at age 13 with thedeath of her sister, Patricia. The conditions became worse because ofthe abuse, Zager said.

Highlights from Monday, April 16:

  • One juror has been excused from the trial because of a “clericalerror,” McNairy County Court spokeswoman Sue Allison said. Fouralternates had been selected to hear the case, and Judge Weber McCrawsaid he would not disclose which of the 12 would be deliberating untilthat time came.
  • Matthew Winkler was killed by a shotgun blast to the back, saidStaci Turner, the physician who conducted the autopsy on the slainminister. She estimated the gun was 1 to 4 feet away from his torsowhen it fired and that 77 birdshot pellets were removed from his bodyafter perforating several ribs and vital organs.
  • Turner said that Matthew Winkler aspirated blood, indicating hetook breaths after the shot. “I would expect him to die withinminutes,” she said.
  • Mary Winkler sniffled, wiped her eyes and looked down during much of Turner’s testimony.
  • Diane Winkler, mother of Matthew Winkler, also testified today. Shesaid her three granddaughters, who live with her and husband, Dan, aredoing “very well.”
  • As happened during Dan Winkler’s testimony, Diane Winkler spent themajority of her time on the stand discussing custody and visitationissues regarding Patricia, 9, Allie, 7, and Brianna, 2. Mary Winklerhas seen the girls once since posting bond, and Diane Winkler said thiswas a direct result of Mary Winkler lying to Patricia about herfather’s death. The children’s counselor made the recommendation, andno further visits could be worked out after the incident, Diane Winklersaid.
  • That visit took place at the gymnasium of the HuntingdonChurch, Diane Winkler said. The site was chosen because of itsproximity to Dan and Diane Winklers’ home next door.
    “The girls came home they were very excited,” Diane Winkler said. “Theylove their mother and enjoyed playing with her. Mary had broughtpresents (and) they wanted to show me what all their mother had giventhem.”
    Diane Winkler said that Patricia told her, “Mother said she did notkill Daddy, isn’t that wonderful?” and that Mary Winkler told herdaughter that the police in Alabama did not tell the truth.
    “I knew that was not the truth,” Diane Winkler said.
  • Patricia Winkler told her mother’s defense attorney that she didn’twant to see Mary Winkler. “Well, I mean I still love her,” the9-year-old said.The child’s tearful testimony caused her mother andseveral jurors to weep as she answered attorneys’ questions.
    The9-year-old girl was one room away when her father, Matthew Winkler, waskilled by a shotgun blast to the back inside the family home on March22, 2006.
    Prosecutors asked Patricia Winkler what she remembered about that morning.
    “Well,at first I heard this big boom, or something, and it seemed likesomebody fell on the ground,” she said. “I went to Mama and Daddy’sroom to see what had happened. I saw daddy laying on the floor facedown.”
  • Testimony from the woman who called herself Mary Winkler’s bestfriend concluded the state’s case today. Brandy McAlister Jones toldjurors that Mary Winkler characterized herself as “the happiest she’sever been” when the two met for dinner in February 2006. Jones’husband, Glen, was Matthew Winkler’s closest friend and collegeroommate at Freed-Hardeman University.
  • Prosecutors rested their case at 4:32 p.m. local time. The defense will call its first witness on Tuesday morning.

Highlights from Saturday, April 14:

  • Five witnesses from banking institutions –four from Regions Bank in Selmer, Tenn., and one from First State Bankin Henderson,Tenn. – presented records of several checking accounts, including jointaccounts held by both Matthew and Mary Winkler and a personal accountfor Mary Winkler. The testimony, which spanned several hours, includedevidence of fraudulent checks, overdrawn accounts and warnings frombank administrators about one account, which was more than $5,000overdrawn in February 2006. The issues resulted from both fradulentchecks and “check-kiting”, witnesses said, where attempts are made towrite checks on an account that has insufficient funds.
  • Two bank employees testified that they notified Mary Winkler that by
  • Paulette Guest, a Regions Bank employee and member of the Fourth Street church, testified that she spoke with MaryWinkler after 4 p.m. on March 21, 2006, and that she and Matthew Winkler had an appointement the next morning at the bank.
  • Guest was asked by defense attorney Leslie Ballin whether she hadever mentioned the Winklers’ financial matters to her minister atchurch. She responded that she had not.
  • Practices and perceptions of members at the Fourth Street Churchwere again discussed in court on Saturday, as Ballin asked Guest if shewas in a position to make a decision about Matthew Winkler’s employmentat the church, if the troubles with the family’s finances had beendisclosed. She replied that she was a member at the church, but had noposition of leadership. Ballin asked if that was because she was awoman. That afternoon, while cross-examining a female U.S. Postalemployee, Ballin said, “That’s not right is it, to forbid ladies fromdoing something? Would you like to be forbidden?”
  • Security also was tightened Saturday after court officials receiveda telephone threat against Mary Winkler. Officers began using metaldetection devices outside the courtroom and announced that Mary Winklerwould be escorted into the courtroom using a back door entrance, ratherthan the main entrance she previously had used.

Highlights from Friday, April 13:

  • At 3:45 p.m. local time, testimony continues to focus on MaryWinkler’s audiotaped words to police investigators in Alabama followingher arrest. As expected, prosecution and defense differ on the meaningof Mary Winkler’s statement, with prosecuting attorneys saying it isclear that Mary Winkler was admitting to pulling the shotgun’s triggerand shooting her husband to death, while Farese points out those wordswere never said verbatim.
  • Mary Winkler told Alabama Bureau of Investigation agent StanStabler on the tape that her husband had threatened her physically. “Hesaid something that really scared me. I don’t know, somethinglife-threatening,” she said, without elaborating further.
  • Mary Winkler’s statements to police in Orange Beach, Ala., afterher arrest began the second day of testimony in her first-degree murdertrial. The recording, barely audible at times, was punctuated bysniffles and sobs as the minister’s wife recounted for police herrelationship with her husband and the events that led to the shooting.Her words drew a fresh display of emotion from Mary Winkler and otherfamily members in the courtroom, especially when she heard herselftalking about her three daughters, her father, and her in-laws, Dan andDiane Winkler.
  • The statement Mary Winkler gave to police after her arrest — the oneher attorneys unsuccessfully fought to have excluded — was played byprosecutors Friday on the start of the second day of testimony in herfirst-degree murder trial.
    Mary Winkler, 33, faces life in prison if convincted of thepremeditated murder of her husband, Fourth Street church ministerMatthew Winkler. He was shot to death on March 22, 2006 in thechurch-owned home the couple lived in with their three children.
    Winkler’s soft, Southern voice filled the courtroom as she haltinglyanswered investigators’ questions about her relationship with herhusband and the events leading up to the shooting. Prosecutors havecalled the recording a confession because she states that she shotMatthew Winkler once in the back with his shotgun.
    “How many times did you shoot him?” asked Alabama Bureau of Investigation agent Stan Stabler.
    “I shot him once,” Mary Winkler said.
    Defense attorneys say that Mary Winkler snapped that morning, afteryears of physical and emotional abuse, and was trying to intimidate herhusband of nine years by pointing the gun at him when it accidentallyfired. Lead attorney Steve Farese Jr. hinted in his opening remarksthat an incident involving the couple’s 1-year-old daughter, Brianna,the night before Matthew Winkler’s death made her angry.

Highlights from Thursday, April 12:

  • At 3:40 p.m. local time, Dr. Drew Eason, an elder at the FourthStreet church, began testifying for the prosecution. Eason also islisted as a defense witness. Under direct questioning, he answeredqueries about his relationships — personal and professional — withMatthew Winkler. Eason also detailed the events of March 22, 2006, whenhe and other church members found Matthew Winkler dead inside thechurch-owned home the family occupied.
  • At 2:30 p.m. local time, Dan Winkler, Matthew Winkler’s father,continues to answer questions from the defense. Farese is focusing nowon Mary Winkler’s visitation with the children, which Dan Winklertestified has not occurred since October 2006.
  • Defense questioning has, at times, focused on theological issues,including what Farese characterized as a Biblical interpretation ofauthority in the home. Farese asked Dan Winkler at one point: “In theChurch of Christ, who is the head of the household?” Dan Winklerreplied: “The Bible says the husband is.” Questioning continued withFarese asking Dan Winkler whether the husband was the “boss” of thehousehold and whether women were allowed to preach in Churches ofChrist.
  • The trial resumed after a lunch break with Dan Winkler, MatthewWinkler’s father, on the witness stand to continue cross-examination.Dan Winkler is being questioned about the agreed order of temporarycustody signed by he and wife Diane, as well as Mary Winkler, after herarrest in Alabama, and before her extradition to Tennessee.
  • Dan Winkler, Matthew Winkler’s father, was the first witness calledin the trial. He was questioned and cross-examined at length aboutprescription medication that his son had taken on two occasions andsubsequently had adverse, hallucinatory reactions to. Dan Winkler saidone such hallucination caused him to lock Mary Winkler out of thehouse, fearing she was going to hurt him.
  • Physical and emotional abuse appear to be the foundation for thedefense’s case, as revealed by opening statements by Farese. The leadprosecutor also said in his first opportunity to address the jury thatthe shooting itself was accidental.
  • Assistant District Attorney Walt Freeland, presenting the state’sopening argument said Mary Winkler knew what she was doing when sheshot her husband. Freeland suggested that Mary Winkler was intent oncovering up a large, negative bank account balance caused by “floating”checks between different banks and accounts.
  • Prosecutors indicated that the couple’s oldest daughter,9-year-old Patricia, will be called to testify. Farese blasted that announcement in his opening statement.
  • “You’ll have 15 new friends at the conclusion of this week,” JudgeWeber McCraw told jurors this morning during his preliminaryinstructions. In his juror information sheet distributed yesterday, heasked the 16 selected panelists (including four alternates) to bringenough clothes and prescription medications for two weeks, to pay anybills due during that time and to arrange for mail pickup.
  • Danand Diane Winkler, parents of slain minister Matthew Winkler, are notseated in the court gallery today. Daniel Winkler, the couple’s oldestson, is present, as are Matthew Winkler’s uncle Mike Winkler andgrandmother Betty Winkler. Clark Freeman, Mary Winkler’s father, issitting behind the defense team. Friends and other family members ofMatthew Winkler and Mary Winkler also are watching today’s proceedings.
  • Thejury is composed of 12 women and four men, ranging in age from 20-65.None listed an affiliation with Churches of Christ on theirquestionnaire.
  • Three Fourth Street church members have beensubpoenaed so far to testify in the trial. Among them is Drew Eason, aphysician elder and family friend, who was among those who went to theWinkler home on March 22, 2006 and found Matthew Winkler dead.

Highlights from Wednesday, April 11:

  • The Associated Press reports that 12 jurors and four alternateshave been selected to hear the case, though Judge Weber McCraw won’treveal which jurors are alternates until deliberations begin.
  • The Memphis Commercial Appeal paints a stark picture oflife for the jurors through the duration of Mary Winkler’s trial. Afterfinal selection, the panel “will be sequestered at Selmer’s SouthwoodInn – a simple, brown, ranch-style motel. Outside the motel’s entrance,a black plastic trash bag covers a USA Today news box – by order ofJudge J. Weber McCraw,” according to the story.

    The jurors’ rooms at the motel also will be free of televisions,radios and telephones, the story says.. Jurors will not be allowed to possess cellphones or laptops. And they will not be allowed to leave the motel,unless accompanied by authorities, for the duration of the trial,expected to last one to two weeks.

    Even the motel’s breakfast room will be off-limits. The jurors willgo eat together – transported in vans and accompanied by McNairy CountySheriff’s deputies, according to the report.

  • Elizabeth Gentle writes in her blogtoday that Mary Winkler also is sequestered, for the most part. “Sofar, Mary hasn’t said a word,” Gentle, a reporter for an NBC affiliatein Huntsville, Ala., says. “Her facial expression is the sameeveryday. … Incidentally, she isstaying in Corinth, MS in the hotel next door to where we are staying.Yesterday, her attorney’s took her to a restaraunt here in Selmer forlunch. They ate in the back with a curtain up around the table.”

  • While the public won’t know much about jurors in the Winkler trial, The Jackson Sun believes religion may be common ground for many of them. InSelmer alone there are at least 27 churches, 10 of them Baptist andfive congregations of Churches of Christ. McNairy County demographicsalso indicate that more than 92 percent of the residents are white, and nearly 70 percent were born in Tennessee, according to the 2000 Census.
  • The trial is expected to last at least two weeks, according to various media reports.

Highlights from Tuesday, April 10:

  • The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports that at least twopotential jurors revealed during attorney questioning that they aremembers of the Churchof Christ, though not at the Fourth Street congregation in Selmer,where Matthew Winkler served as pulpit minister. Challenges to the juryof 12 members and four alternates could begin before the end of the dayand a jury could be seated onWednesday.
  • From Fox 13 News in Memphis comes an early list of potential witnesses both sides have asked to subpoena: For the state:Terry Arney, TBI; Steve Scott, TBI; Kacey Broadway; Libby Correa; LewisCorrea; Dr. William Eason; Jana Hawkins; Amy Hollingsworth; Fr. JeanneKing; Judy Mills; Dr. Stephen Montgomery; Lewis Moore Jr.; Dr. StaciTurner. For the defense: Jonathan Allen; Anita Biles; CharlesBogle; Brent Booth; Dr. William Eason; Dr. Timothy Fisher; Amy &Cynthia Redmond; McNairy County Sheriff Ricky Roten.
  • According to The Associated Press, potential jurors being questioned for Mary Winkler’s murder trialhave been asked if they had been in or knew of someone in an abusiverelationship, believed domestic abuse was a real problem and werefamiliar with how brainwashing worked.
  • Also from AP: In their questions to potential jurors Tuesday, defense attorneyssuggested thefatal shooting might have been an accident. Defense attorneysSteve Farese and Leslie Ballin asked several potential jurors if theywere familiar with firearms and gun safety. “Can firearms accidentallygo off?” Ballin asked several times.
  • The Jackson Sun quotes a Baptist minister tellingattorneys he doesn’t feel comfortable serving on the jury that willdecide whether Mary Winkler is convicted of murder. “I’m a minister,and I just don’t feel right passing down judgment on somebody else,”the man said. Assistant District Attorney General Walter Freeland askedhim if he thought that would keep him from being a fair juror for thestate. He said it wouldn’t. “I could be (a fair juror) if it’s put onme,” the minister said. “But I’d rather not be” a juror.
  • Photos of Mary Winkler from various news outlets show her wearing across necklace and a wedding band. She has been dressing in whatcourt-watchers call “conservative, business-like attire” and carrying abriefcase. In court, she wears reading glasses and takes notes asmembers of the jury pool answer questions.
  • Elizabeth Gentle, a reporter for the NBC affiliate in Huntsville,Ala., was Mary Winkler’s classmate at Freed-Hardeman University inHenderson, Tenn. On her blog, she writes, “This doesn’t even look like the same person I went to college with. Shehas the most stone cold look on her face. The Mary I remember was asweet girl, with a shy personality. She was always smiling and appearedto be a happy person.”

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