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Winkler prelim derailed by possible witness conflict

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DEFENSE ATTORNEY David Weiner, left, confers with his client Todd Winkler Thursday in court. Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene

By
From page A3 | October 08, 2012 |

Todd Winkler sat alone in a nearly empty courtroom while his attorney, David Weiner, and the prosecutors, Lisette Suder and Jodie Jensen, entered the courtroom from the judge’s chambers for a preliminary hearing Thursday afternoon.

Judge Douglas C. Phimister handled a matter that had trailed from the morning calendar before calling Winkler’s case.

He noted that, after the conference behind closed doors, the matter was not yet ready to be heard. While many of the materials promised from Monday’s hearing had been given as discovery, additional material was still coming in.

Phimister also announced a potential conflict with one of the witnesses who had been set to testify at the hearing, and that the prosecutors were directed to send information on the witness to Weiner. He noted that the “present counsel might have previously represented the witness,” later indicated that it might have been Weiner in a 2003 case. As such, he declared, the Public Defender’s Office, likely attorney Mark Ralphs, would meet with the witness to determine if there was any conflict. Phimister said that the witness would not be testifying at a preliminary hearing, but might be testifying during a trial, if the case does go to trial.

A “more likely to be closed” hearing will take place on Oct. 17 at 2 p.m. to determine whether a conflict exists.

The judge said that they should not only look at “actual conflict but the appearance of any conflict,” and that the matter “needs to be further investigated.”

Weiner informed the court that “several hundreds of pages” of cell phone records were still in the prosecutor’s custody and had not been provided to him.

Suder replied that the records of the four phones still needed a few redactions and that Weiner would have the documents within a week.

The defense attorney then brought up that he should be able to see any past information and any new information from the witness previously discussed. The judge said that the “information the witness has given could be part of the problem,” and that Ralphs would have to determine if there is a conflict in the case. Weiner claimed that any past materials would not be confidential.

As the attorneys were getting up to leave, with the hearing presumably over, Weiner inquired as to whether Winkler had the right to be at the hearing for the witness. Phimister replied that, as it was a murder trial, Winkler should have the “right to be present at virtually all the hearings.”

The preliminary hearing itself was continued to Oct. 30 at 2 p.m. and, if need be, Oct. 31 at 8 a.m.

Winkler is accused of killing his wife, Rachel, during a fight on Feb. 27 over their impending divorce. He allegedly stabbed his wife in the throat with scissors, but claims that it was she who originally pulled the scissors on him, injuring his hands and inner thighs. He is being held in custody without bail.

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