Mary Winkler seeks new trial

Mary Winkler has asked a court for a new trial after her April 19 conviction for voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of her minister husband.

Winkler, 33, also awaits a decision from the Tennessee Court of Appeals on her May 23 motion to stop efforts by her in-laws to terminate her parental rights and adopt her children. She first wants a juvenile court to hear her petition to immediately return her three daughters to her.

The Court of Appeals issued an order May 24 postponing trial proceedings on the in-laws’ petition to terminate Winkler’s parental rights until the appeals court makes a decision.

In a response filed Friday, the attorney for Dan and Diane Winkler, who are the parents of Mary Winkler’s late husband, called her appeals court motion frivolous and said that it was “filed only to cause delay.”

Meanwhile, Mary Winkler filed her petition for a new trial in the criminal case late Monday in McNairy County Circuit Court.

She was convicted in the March 2006 shooting of her husband, 31-year-old Matthew Winkler. He served as pulpit minister at Selmer’s Fourth Street Church of Christ at the time of his death.

The standard sentence for voluntary manslaughter is three to six years in prison, but Winkler could receive probation, attorneys have said. She’s scheduled to be sentenced Friday. She remains free on a $750,000 bond and is living and working in McMinnville.

Winkler’s request for a new trial is strictly procedural and is based on grounds on which one would routinely seek to get a new trial, her attorney Steve Farese Sr. said Tuesday. If granted a new trial, Winkler could not be convicted of first-degree murder or any other charges greater than voluntary manslaughter because she’s already been acquitted of those, Farese said.

He does not expect her to get a new trial.

McNairy County Circuit Court Judge Weber McCraw “has already ruled on the issues,” Farese added. “I think he probably took a lot of time before ruling on most of the motions. So, I don’t know anything between now and then that would change his mind.”

Still, motions for new trials should always be filed in cases where there’s a conviction, Farese said.

Winkler’s motion states 11 reasons the court erred in her trial and adds that a preponderance of the evidence was against guilt and favored Winkler’s innocence. The court should have granted Winkler’s motion to suppress the searches of her vehicle and house and the statements she gave police, the document said.

The motion also says the court erred when it allowed testimony about Winkler’s financial records, admitted crime scene photos into evidence and allowed an Orange Beach, Ala., police officer to testify about what Winkler’s children told him when she was taken into custody there the day after the killing.

Matthew Winkler’s parents, who live in Huntingdon, have custody of the couple’s daughters, Patricia, 9, Mary Alice (Allie), 7 and Brianna, 2.

Mary Winkler granted her in-laws temporary custody of the children while she was in jail and unable to care for them, her attorney Kay Farese Turner said in the appeals court petition. She filed a petition in McNairy County Juvenile Court on March 13 for their immediate return because of her in-laws’ “ongoing refusal” to allow her any contact with them, the petition said.

Mary Winkler asked at that time for an immediate hearing of the pending dependency and neglect proceedings, the document added.

Then on April 24, her in-laws filed their petition in Carroll County Chancery Court to terminate her parental rights and adopt the children. Dan and Diane Winkler also filed a motion in McNairy County Juvenile Court that day to transfer the dependency neglect case to the chancery court.

Winkler filed a motion also in juvenile court on April 24 to set aside the custody order she’d agreed to with Dan and Diane Winkler based on the “fraud, misrepresentation and misconduct” of the couple and their attorney, her appeals court petition said.

Madison County Judge Christy Little has presided over the dependency and neglect proceedings. She suspended proceedings in juvenile court pending the outcome of the Winklers’ motion to terminate Mary Winkler’s parental rights.

Mary Winkler contends that the delay that Little’s ruling causes in deciding the juvenile case could substantially harm her relationship with her children, her petition said. She also believes that she may never get a chance to present evidence that she is able to care for her children, depending on the outcome of proceedings to end her rights as a parent.

Mary Winkler wants the appeals court to set aside Little’s order suspending juvenile court proceedings and to direct the juvenile court to set an immediate hearing on all matters now pending in that court, the petition said. Winkler also asked that the termination case be postponed until after rulings on juvenile court matters.

Dan and Diane Winkler’s attorney, James “Jake” Adams, said in his response in appeals court that Little’s ruling was proper and required by law.

He has asked the appeals court to lift its stay on chancery court proceedings and said Dan and Diane Winkler should be compensated for their costs in the appeals case.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday June 7, 2007.
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