Todd Winkler appeared in court Monday to request a new attorney from Judge Douglas C. Phimister.
Winkler, accused of murdering his wife, had requested the hearing in order to have a new attorney appointed to him, Phimister announced. He then said that there was “sufficient conflict” to begin granting the request. He also noted that there was a chance the case could resolve before trial.
Phimister elaborated on the conflict without saying what the conflict itself was. “The court is of the view that there is a clear conflict,” he said, that dealt with a “complicated legal question.” He also said he was “always reluctant to remove retained counsel,” as Winkler’s attorney, David Weiner, had not been appointed.
Weiner was relieved of being Winkler’s attorney, and Phimister appointed James Clark, noting that there was four or five inches of materials including military records for the newly appointed attorney to look over that had recently been received by the court.
But Winkler himself then spoke up, saying he was uncomfortable having Clark as his attorney. Phimister appointed Erik Schlueter in place of Clark and Weiner, saying “I normally don’t let defendants pick their attorneys but the circumstances allow it in this case.”
Weiner would remain counsel of record. Schlueter would be charged with writing and arguing a writ of conflict to be reviewed by the appellate court to further determine whether the conflict exists and whether to fully appoint Schlueter as Winkler’s attorney. Ironically, as Schuleter was not present in court, Clark appeared for him.
Previously set hearings were vacated and a new pre-preliminary date of Dec. 10 at 1 p.m. was given. However, Phimister said, if the appellate court decides there is no conflict, that hearing could be moot.
Deputy district attorney Lisette Suder, joined by fellow DDA Jodie Jensen, noted that there were medical records concerning the incident with Winkler and his wife and that questions had arisen about the documents, namely who would be the custodian during the process of arguing for the conflict. Phimister declared the court would remain custodian until a decision is reached.
Winkler allegedly killed his wife, Rachel, during a fight on Feb. 27 over their impending divorce in their Cameron Airpark home. He allegedly stabbed her in the throat with scissors, but claims that it happened during a struggle where she pulled the scissors on him, injuring his hands and inner thighs before he wrested the scissors away. He is being held in custody without bail.