Potential Jurors In Tennessee Preacher's Wife's Murder Trial Questioned

Tuesday, April 10th 2007, 7:31 am
By: News On 6

SELMER, Tenn. (AP) _ Questions for prospective jurors in the trial of a preacher's wife accused of killing her husband paint a picture of a woman who was psychologically unable to free herself from an abusive marriage.

Potential jurors being questioned for Mary Winkler's murder trial were asked Monday if they had been in or knew of someone in an abusive relationship, believed domestic abuse was a real problem and were familiar with how brainwashing worked.

``Do you believe there are emotional and psychological chains that can keep you tied to a situation?'' defense attorney Steve Farese asked at one point.

Attorneys made it through only 14 of 160 potential jurors in the pool on Monday and were scheduled to continue Tuesday. Court officials said the jury selection process could take up to a week and the entire trial could take several weeks.

Police have said Winkler admitted killing her husband last year, and that it had something to do with his constant criticism.

``It was just building up to this point,'' Winkler said, according to a statement taken by Alabama police. ``I was just tired of it. I guess I just got to a point and snapped.''

While her attorneys have never directly said she shot her husband, they have indicated their defense would be based on ``how and why'' the crime happened, rather than what happened, as fellow defense attorney Leslie Ballin told potential jurors.

Mary Winkler's father, Clark Freeman, has said his daughter might have been physically abused.

Farese and Ballin also asked potential jurors on Monday about their religious affiliations and familiarity with firearms.

Mary and Matthew Winkler both grew up in Churches of Christ, strict churches that believe the Bible should be interpreted literally and bar instrumental music.

Winkler, 33, a substitute teacher described as quiet and unassuming, is accused of gunning down her 31-year-old husband, who was a minister at the Fourth Street Church of Christ in this small western Tennessee town. A day after the March 2006 shooting, she was arrested some 340 miles away with their three young daughters.

Matthew Winkler's parents now have custody of their three daughters, ages 9, 7 and 2 at the time of the shooting, and they have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against their mother.

While Winkler has been found competent to stand trial, her attorneys have indicated they may argue that she lacked the required state of mind to commit premeditated first-degree murder.