Mary Winkler sentencing hearing: what to expect

Over year after the initial crime, and nearly two months after her conviction, Mary Winkler is scheduled to be sentenced Friday in Selmer for the murder of her preacher husband.

During Friday's sentencing hearing, the Selmer courtroom will likely once again be filled with witnesses.  This time, they'll testify about Mary Winkler's character.

Testimony, called "mitigation and aggravation," is designed to sway the judge about what kind of sentence the convicted should receive.  Defense attorneys try for a lesser sentence, and prosecutors show why the sentence should be tough.

Friday, defense attorneys Leslie Ballin and Steve Farese are expected to call five or more character witnesses.  Prosecutors have not indicated whether they will call witnesses against Winkler, but they have that option.

Often, character testimony at a sentencing hearing is more relaxed than during a trial.  For example, testimony can include hearsay.  After the judge listens to witness testimony, he will issue his sentence.

Mary Winkler could receive three to six years in jail.  Under Tennessee law, she could serve just a third of her sentenced time and get credit for time she already served before she was granted bond.

Defense attorneys said it is possible Winkler could be released immediately on probation.  If they get their wish, Winkler will receive diversion, which means she would stay out of prison and her conviction would eventually be erased from her record.

Action News 5 will have complete coverage Friday from Selmer for Mary Winkler's sentencing hearing.  George Brown and Anna Marie Hartman will bring you live coverage from the courthouse.  You can also watch the entire hearing, live, on