Friday, June 8, 2007

Winkler Gets 210 Days Plus Probation

Posted By on Fri, Jun 8, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Mary Winkler, convicted earlier this year of voluntary manslaughter in the 2006 shotgun death of her minister husband in their Selmer home, was sentenced by Judge Weber McGraw Friday to a three-year term, only 210 days of which will involve confinement.

Additionally, 60 days of that time can be accounted for in “an appropriate court-approved facility” for psychological treatment. The balance of Winkler’s sentence is subject to court-ordered probation.

Judge McGraw said he reached his conclusions after weighing pre-sentencing reports, trial transcripts, and Friday’s testimony, including both enhancing and mitigating factors. Winkler could have received as much as six year's imprisonment, while her defense team sought outright diversion, a process which could have resulted both in her continued freedom and the expunging of a conviction from her record.

Noting especially that Rev. Winkler was shot in the back, possibly while sleeping, and left to die without medical attention, ,Judge McGraw ruled that Mary Winkler was not a suitable candidate for judicial diversion as such, but he acknowledged that some form of alternate sentencing might be appropriate. Mary Winkler’s five months’ worth of jail time served so far was apparently a factor in reaching the 210-day figure for mandated incarceration.

It remained unclear as to the exact time Winkler has yet to serve, however, as the time-served figure may actually be applied in part to the 210-day sentence itself.

Judge McGraw’s somewhat Solomonic reckoning came after a full morning’s worth of statements presented by both the prosecution and the defense.

Both Daniel Winkler, brother of the deceased, and Diane Winkler, Matthew Winkler's mother, testified — each addressing a sometimes weeping Mary Winkler directly and, among other things, reproaching her for what the dead man's brother called the "murder" of Rev. Winkler's reputation as well as of Rev. Winkler’s body.

At her murder trial, Mary Winkler had claimed a history of abuse, sexual and otherwise, during her nine-year marriage to Matthew Winkler.

Diane Winkler said at one point, "The monster you have painted for the world to see, I don’t think that monster existed.…If he was that type of person,he needed help. But I don’t think he was that type of person…"

A major issue, addressed directly by Matthew Winkler's blood relations, was the traumatic effect of the slaying and its aftermath on the Winkler couple's three daughters, now residing with their paternal grandparents. Mary Winkler has indicated she intends to seek to regain custody of the children.

Diane Winkler talked of the continuing longing for their late father suffered by Rev. Winkler’s three daughters and their ongoing trauma, including a feeling expressed by one that she feared getting married herself lest some such tragedy as befell her father might occur in her own acquired family.

Defense attorneys Steve Farese and Leslie Ballin called witnesses, too, including Mary Winkler's adopted sister, her current employer at a McMinnville cleaning establishment, the head of the McMinnville household where she currently resides, her probation officer, a Warren County Church of Christ minister, and a psychologist who had previously testified for the defense at her murder trial.

The psychologist, Dr. Lynne Zager, testified at about Mary Winkler's fluctuating stress levels over the last few months and noted Winkler's contention, during her incarceration that "she felt safe for the first time in her life."

In answer to a question from co-defense counsel Leslie Ballin, however, Zager said Mary Winkler, whom she described as "remorseful, even in her dreams," could best recover her psychological equilibrium in what Ballin called "non-custodial" circumstances and she preferred the term "non-institutional" for.

Mary Winkler's sister, Tabitha Freeman of Knoxville, testified tearfully that she had come from "a very bad, abusive, biological past, and she was the first person told me she loved me. Mary changed my life and all our lives."

Finally, Mary Winkler herself, reading from a legal pad, delivered a statement in which she said she had loved her husband. She addressed the Winkler family directly and said she understood their anger and was “so sorry this had happened.”

Winkler said she hoped her predicament would “shed light on unhealthy relationships” and prod people in like circumstances to "seek help" before something tragic occurred. She talked of bad times and good times” with her husband, said she missed him, and suggested that everything had happened “in accordance with God’s plan…for a reason.” She concluded: Please let me go home today and be with my children. Thank you.”

After a lengthy recess, during which Judge McGraw presumably reviewed the testimony and his legal options, the two legal teams made brief statements.

A highlight of prosecutor Walt Freeland’s was his pointed reminder of Mary Winkler’s participation in what turned out to be a financial Ponzi scheme that victimized her — an involvement Freeland said was not entirely unwitting. He also noted as a “statutory enhancement factor” that the shooting of Rev. Winkler was carried out in close proximity to the children’s bedrooms.

Referring to the lighter available penalties, involving probation or diversion, Freeland scornfully equated them to the penalties for “forging a prescription for Xanax or sneaking a cellphone into a jail”and called for the maximum sentence of six years.

Speaking next, attorney Steve Farese Jr., son of the lead defense attorney, insisted on the absence of prior criminal conduct by Mary Winkler before the murder case, the fact of remorse, and her “amenability for correction.” He cited mitigating factors including a “disassociative” mental condition and “strong provocation,” presumably relating to the defendant’s claims of spousal abuse at her trial.

The members of the defense team afterward indicated that a petition for a retrial was at least formally under consideration, though Ballin indicated the defense was "satisfied" with the verdict.

--Jackson Baker

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