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Jury chosen for trial of preacher's wife

SELMER, Tenn. (AP) — A jury was chosen Wednesday to hear the first-degree murder trial of a small-town preacher's wife accused of shooting her husband.

After three days of questioning, 16 jurors were selected to hear Mary Winkler's case. Four are alternates, but to make sure they all pay close attention, the judge will not announce which jurors are alternates until just before deliberations.

"It was the longest jury selection I've been involved in. We're anxious to start the trial," said defense attorney Leslie Ballin.

Winkler, 33, is accused of shooting her husband with a shotgun in March 2006. She was arrested one day later on the Alabama coast, some 340 miles away, with her three young daughters.

Matthew Winkler, 31, was a popular minister at the Fourth Street Church of Christ in Selmer, 80 miles east of Memphis. He graduated from Austin High School in Decatur. Members of his church found him dead in the parsonage, killed by a single blast from a 12-gauge shotgun as he lay in bed.

Jury questioning by Mary Winkler's attorneys indicated their defense may center on alleged domestic abuse or an accidental shooting.

Included on the jury are a Baptist minister and a woman who said she had been a victim of domestic abuse. Twelve of the jurors are women and four are men.

None of the jurors listed Church of Christ as their religion on a questionnaire. The Winklers both grew up in Churches of Christ, conservative churches that believe the Bible should be interpreted literally and that baptism by immersion in water is necessary for salvation.

The jury will be sequestered for the duration of the trial, which could last up to two weeks. They will be allowed to spend Wednesday night at home and then report to court Thursday morning for opening statements.

The jury will be required to stay at the Southwood Inn, a Selmer motel where out-of-town media covering the trial are also staying.

Televisions have been removed from the jurors' rooms, and Judge Weber McCraw instructed the panel that they could not use cell phones, radios, computers, video games or consume alcohol.

A newspaper box located near the jurors' rooms was covered with a black plastic bag Wednesday afternoon.

"Everyone's going to work hard," McCraw said. "We're going to work long days to get through this."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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