On November 15, 2007, after a long and winding road through the Criminal Justice System, a jury convicted Mr. Temple of the murder of Belinda Temple, and sentenced him to Life in prison and a $10,000 fine. The jury had listened to six weeks of testimony in a battle between one of Harris County's best defense attorneys, Dick DeGuerin, and the District Attorney's best prosecutor, Kelly Siegler, before arriving at their verdict. Despite the length of the testimony, their time of deliberation was only a few hours.
At the end of July, I wrote this post, explaining how Harris County First Assistant District Attorney Jim Leitner was working with DeGuerin in an effort to clear the name of David Temple. In that earlier post, I mentioned that Leitner had authorized unlimited overtime for a Harris County D.A. Investigator (Steve Clappart) to assist in the investigation. Clappart was to assist defense attorney John Denholm as Denholm (a former Harris County Sheriff's Department Homicide Lieutenant) assisted DeGuerin. Clappart, by his own admission, had a "personal relationship with John Denholm for 20 years."
The position of the Harris County District Attorney's Office quickly became one of an agency talking out of both sides of its mouth. While the Appellate Division of the Office was arguing that Temple's conviction should stand, the First Assistant was covertly authorizing an investigator to try to undermine the factual basis of the very same conviction. Leitner's authorization of funding for Clappart's investigation was something he wished to keep under the radar. Belinda Temple's family (the Lucas family) wasn't informed of what Leitner and Clappart were up to.
As of this writing, the Lucas family still hasn't been informed of what is going on.
The objective of the Clappart/Denholm "investigation" was to shift attention away from David Temple as the prime suspect in the murder of his wife and focus it on a trio of teenagers who were believed to have been committing burglaries in the neighborhood during that time frame. A startling new piece of evidence came from a new witness who had allegedly heard one of those teenagers make a statement of "guilt." (NOTE: More on that "statement of 'guilt'" in a moment.)
When I wrote the post at the end of July, Leitner was reportedly infuriated -- not that he and I were exactly best friends in the first place. Suddenly, he was having to field phone calls about why the victim's family had not been informed. In an effort to attempt some semblance of an appearance of neutrality in the DeGuerin/Denholm/Clappart investigation, the Office appointed a "Special Prosecutor." That prosecutor is a reputable attorney by the name of Brad Beers.
Let me start off by saying that I like Brad Beers. He's a nice guy and an excellent attorney. Many moons ago, he gave me some advice as a prosecutor that I will never forget and will always appreciate. But Brad Beers has a conflict of interest in this case that is so significant that he should have NEVER accepted a request to serve as a Special Prosecutor at the behest of Pat Lykos where Steve Clappart was the lead investigator.
Clappart and Denholm are currently trying to get warrants signed for the arrest of at least one of the teenagers (at the time) mentioned above. In their opinion, one of the teenagers committed a burglary and killed Belinda Temple in the process. Under Texas Law, that would make him a Capital Murderer. The type of warrant they are trying to get signed is informally called "Pocket Warrants," but it is nonetheless an arrest warrant accusing someone of Capital Murder. Clappart and Denholm want the (then) teen arrested and charged with the highest crime our State has to offer.
If they are successful in having the warrant signed (NOTE: More on the content of the warrants in a moment), Brad Beers will be the "Special Prosecutor" and Steve Clappart will be his star witness. Here's where the Conflict of Interest comes in:
Several years ago, there was a highly publicized case involving an exonerated defendant -- George Rodriguez -- who sued several people and agencies in conjunction with his wrongful conviction for sexual assault. Steve Clappart was one of those people sued. Clappart's attorney in the matter? Brad Beers.
Fast forward a bit, and Harris County Investigator Steve Clappart is disciplined by the Office for breaking policy and surreptitiously sending offense reports to a criminal defense attorney (before such things were permitted). The defense attorney in question? That would be Brad Beers.
Brad is also rumored to have been Hannah Chow's defense attorney during the recent Grand Jury investigation into the Office. Brad also contacted me several months ago to let me that he was representing Investigator Leon Wilson, who was looking to sue somebody for nasty things being said about him on this blog.
Leitner and the Gang may call Brad Beers a Special Prosecutor, but they damn sure can't call him a neutral one.
Now, let's get back to the events of this week and that Pocket Warrant.
Clappart has been shopping around a warrant for the arrest of the (then) teen for the Capital Murder of Belinda Temple. He cites the testimony of a new witness who, per the warrant, had only learned of Belinda Temple's death (which happened in 1999) only "5 or 6 months ago." Furthermore, that "Smoking Gun" evidence that this new witness has involves him overhearing one of the three (then) teens admitting to shooting a dog during a burglary and throwing it in the closet.
Yep, you read that right.
There isn't some new confession to the murder of Belinda Temple. There's the confession of shooting a dog that Clappart and Denholm would like to extrapolate into a Capital Murder warrant. There are no fingerprints. No DNA. No confession. Yet a licensed peace office and a former licensed peace officer would like a judge to arrest someone for Capital Murder because he stated that he once shot a dog.
In the meantime, while Clappart and Denholm are trying to arrest somebody for a Capital Murder based on that evidence, we have DeGuerin and Stanley Schneider filing an "Out of Time Motion for New Trial or Alternative Application for Writ of Habeas Corpus Based on Actual Innocence, Newly Discovered Evidence, and the Willful Suppression of Exculpatory Evidence."
They did that yesterday.
Well, of all the strange coincidences -- that Motion for New Trial for David Temple just so happens to have gotten filed right around the time that Clappart is trying to get a warrant signed on the teens.
Amazing, isn't it? How on earth could Schneider and DeGuerin have known what a D.A. Investigator was up to? At least, how would they have known without the collusion of the District Attorney's Office?
As an aside, in their Motion/Writ, DeGuerin and Schneider make mention of the statement of the "New Witness" being sealed for his protection. It isn't being sealed for the witness' protection -- it's being sealed because it's a confession to animal cruelty -- not capital murder.
Still not convinced that the District Attorney's Office isn't operating out of Dick DeGuerin's back pocket? Let's take a look over at our friend Don Hooper's blog. Don, if you will remember, is the husband of 5th-Amendment-taking-prosecutor Rachel Palmer, and he operates a blog to combat mine. He remains cyberspace's best Lykos Administration Defender. He had an interesting post in his comments section last night:
So, Don apparently got advance word from the Office and was quite excited about the Temple story getting some press attention. Glad to see that he shares their interest in Justice.
Anyway . . .
That brings us to today, as Schneider and DeGuerin are trying to get Judge David Mendoza of the 178th District Court to make a ruling on their Motion. The District Attorney's Office via their Appellate Division Head Alan Curry have made the argument that since Temple's case is currently pending in front of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the trial court doesn't have jurisdiction to rule on the new motion. (NOTE: Although the Temple Case was tried in the 178th District Court, visiting Judge Doug Shaver presided at trial.)
DeGuerin and Schneider don't like Mr. Curry's arguments and they would sure like him recused from the hearing. Unfortunately, the only way they can do that is to try to recuse the District Attorney's Office as a whole. They don't want that, because then they would have to recuse Clappart, too.
Additionally, they would have to recuse Special Prosecutor Brad Beers as well. You see, he's not a Prosecutor Pro Tem -- he's a special prosecutor, and thus, an employee of the District Attorney's Office, albeit temporarily.
The defense needs Beers and/or the District Attorney's Office to agree that David Temple was wrongfully convicted so they can either a) get him a new trial or b) get him released.
Sound like a mess? It is. And it certainly isn't a mess that the District Attorney was elected to create and encourage.
The debacle created by Leitner and the rest of the Gang is an absolute disgrace to the District Attorney's Office and it illustrates a gross dereliction of duty.