Thursday, September 24, 2015

Kim Ogg to Run Again

I received an email today from the Kim Ogg for Harris County District Attorney campaign, stating that there would be a campaign announcement tomorrow (September 25th) at 10:00 a.m. across from the CJC.

This is not surprising news, since she pretty much confirmed that she was going to run again immediately after she lost the election for the unexpired term in 2014.

As I stated when she ran last time, Kim is a qualified candidate.  I was disappointed with some of her antics during her 2014 campaign, and I hope there will be more of a discussion of actual issues this time around.

It is worth noting that Kim had a closer margin in her race than most other Harris County Democratic candidates did in 2014.  She is definitely someone that Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson will need to take seriously on the campaign trail.  However, Devon will now be viewed as a solid incumbent with several years under her belt by November of next year.

As usual, my amateur political analysis is that this race will be decided by who the Republican and Democratic candidates for President are.  I don't see Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden inspiring Democratic voters to flock to the polls like they did for Obama in 2008.  That being said, if Donald Trump ends up as the Republican candidate, I could absolutely see the Latino community being very motivated to get out and vote against him.  I think the Latino voting bloc is the most influential segment of voters in Harris County right now.

As always, the presidential election years are always so much more interesting than the gubernatorial ones.




Tuesday, September 15, 2015

New Fault Lines Post

Today's new post at Fault Lines deals with a story out of The Atlantic which talks about the "Victimhood Culture" and how it applies across the board in the Criminal Justice Arena.

You can read it here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Finding 37 and the David Temple Rebuttal

Yesterday afternoon, the Harris County District Attorney's Office filed a response to Judge Larry Gist's Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law on the David Temple case.  The document, entitled Respondent's/State's Objections to the Habeas Court's Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, is 80 pages long.

The lengthy response painstakingly addresses each and every one of Gist's findings and rebuts his findings that prosecutor Kelly Siegler withheld exculpatory Brady information during Temple's 2007 trial.  Unlike Gist's findings from the Habeas hearing, the response actually cites the record (both from the original trial and the hearing) in dismantling the findings.

Additionally, the response brings to light a disturbing irregularity that casts even more doubt on Gist's findings -- more on that in a moment.

As those following the Temple case know, Judge Gist's findings listed 36 findings (remember that number, it will become important shortly) in recommending relief for David Temple.  Some of those findings dealt with allegations of Brady violations and the Response addresses them all.

Here are some of the highlights.  I highly encourage anyone interested in the case to read the Response for themselves.

Finding # 9-  that Kelly Siegler never turned over an FBI report to Dick DeGuerin during the trial.
   Apparently, the animosity between DeGuerin and Siegler was so intense that Dick taped all phone calls between him and Kelly and then had transcripts made.  That would prove to be his undoing when (despite his claims) one of these transcripts had Siegler informing DeGuerin (two years prior to the Temple trial) of the report and telling him he could review it whenever he liked.
   This was all produced during the habeas hearing and why Judge Gist would make this finding inexplicably contradicts the record. [p. 4-5]

Finding # 31 - that Kelly Siegler failed to turn over a Harris County bulletin that stated that the murder of Belinda Temple occurred between 4:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
   The transcripts of the trial are very clear that the exact time of Belinda Temple's murder was never firmly established and that the time estimate on said bulletin was just a preliminary guess. [p. 8-10]

Findings # 3 & 10 - that Kelly Siegler withheld the statements of alternative suspect Riley Joe Sanders.
   This particular response is long and detailed.  Again, I would encourage the reader to look at the response itself.  The bottom line is that the record is very clear that DeGuerin was made aware of Riley Joe Sanders and the Defense team tried very hard to portray him as the true murderer of Belinda Temple.   DeGuerin acknowledged that he was aware of Sanders two years prior to the trial.
   Sanders gave five oral statements and two written statements.  On pages 11 & 12, the response has a chart, illustrating the discrepancies (if any) between the seven statements.  The response acknowledges that the Defense was not made aware of the contents of two of those statements, but notes that there was nothing exculpatory in them, nor anything inconsistent with the other five statements.

Findings # 8 &17 - that Kelly Siegler failed to turn over the written statements of several witnesses related to the alternate suspect, Riley Joe Sanders.
  This particular portion of the findings argues that none of these statements were exculpatory -- to the contrary, they actually corroborated the written statements of Riley Joe Sanders.  [p. 24]

Finding # 21 - that Kelly Siegler misrepresented the name of [witness] Carlos Corro as "Carlos Gutierrez."
  This is perhaps one of the most amusingly erroneous findings by Judge Gist.  As noted on p. 40-41, it was actually Dick DeGuerin who bungled the name here.  During a hearing outside the presence of the jury, he was the one who began referring to Corro as Gutierrez.

NOTE:  At this point, one starts to wonder whether or not Gist was paying attention to the evidence being presented to him.

Finding # 27 -  that Kelly Siegler did not reveal that the Temple family dog, Shaka, had access to the garage of the home from the back yard.
  This is my favorite finding.  This finding basically says that Siegler withheld the layout of David Temple's garage from David Temple.   There's more to it than that, obviously, but it is a silly assertion.  Yet again, I encourage you to read the findings for yourself.

Findings # 1, 4, 6, 11, 12 & 13 -- that Kelly Siegler failed to properly disclose information regarding numerous shotguns that could have potentially been used as the murder weapon.
  This is a very key point in the Repsonse [p. 48] as it deals with multiple weapons that could potentially be linked to Riley Joe Sanders and any other "alternate suspect."  In pages 50 - 54, each firearm is addressed, along with a citation that illustrates that defense counsel was made aware of each weapon either before or during the trial.

As I said earlier, this is not a comprehensive list by any means, but it does show some of the highlights and citations.  A more thorough reading of the response will show more examples of Judge Gist making strange findings in light of the evidence.  Why Judge Gist would make these findings is hard to understand.  However, an event that occurred after the close of evidence and after Judge Gist released his findings may shed some light on the topic.

Beginning on page 69 of the Repsonse:
"On August 20, 2015, habeas counsel Stan Schneider and Casey Gotrow [sic] sent an email to Judge Gist -- the habeas court for the purpose of the writ proceedings -- and asked him to consider entering amended findings and conclusions of law.
"On August 21, 2015, the habeas court replied to the email stating, 'I will review the submittal and advise all parties whether or not I will grant the defendant's request over the State's objection.  However, I will not add additional fact findings.
"On September 2, 2015, the habeas court filed amended Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and the habeas court's cover letter stated, 'This is identical to the original filed in the Court with the addition of citations to the record regarding each finding.'
"However, a review of the amended Findings of Fact show the addition of a new finding - no. 37.   On September 4, 2015, the State emailed both habeas counsel and the habeas court asking about the addition of finding no. 37 in light of habeas court's statement that the court would not add additional findings and that the habeas court was filing amended findings that were identical to those formerly filed -- findings that were numbered 1 through 36 and did not include finding no. 37.
"On September 8, 2015, the habeas court sent a letter to the Court of Criminal Appeals stating that the habeas court, i.e. Judge Gist, 'never made finding No. 37 and do not make such a finding now.'  The habeas court further requested that the Court of Criminal Appeals 'please delete finding No. 37 from the document recently sent to you.'"
So, what does that mean exactly?

It means that Stan Schneider and Casie Gotro told Judge Gist that they would like an additional finding put in his Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.  Judge Gist told them "no."  Yet, somehow, an additional finding was added anyway.  When brought to Gist's attention, he stated that he didn't author that finding and he demanded it be removed.

So who authored it?  Well, that would obviously be Team Temple -- Schneider and Gotro.  Despite Judge Gist saying he would entertain no additional findings, they wrote it anyway and submitted it on his behalf, apparently.

That's a pretty damn brazen move to make.

More importantly, it calls into question how much attention was Judge Gist paying to the testimony he was hearing during the habeas hearing.  His first set of findings had no citations to the record.  Most (if not all) of his findings are directly contradicted by the record of the trial and/or the habeas hearing.  Clearly, he paid no attention to the citations provided by Schneider and Gotro in the amended findings, or he surely would have noticed that they had added the unauthorized Finding #37.

The mere fact that an additional finding was surreptitiously added without Judge Gist's knowledge calls into question the integrity of the entire hearing.

Of course, that only matters if you are interested in things like . . . the truth.

In typical fashion, Brian Rogers wrote a piece for the Chronicle which glossed over the D.A.'s Office's responses, linked to previous articles which blasted Kelly Siegler, and quoted Temple attorney, Casie Gotro, extensively.  Rogers made no effort to contact Siegler for a comment and apparently avoided asking Gotro any hard hitting questions such as "Did you actually add a judicial finding and slide it past the judge?"

Finding # 37 is not mentioned once in his article.

Gotro and Schneider have spent the past several months questioning Kelly Siegler's integrity and accusing her of not playing fair during the Temple trial.  The Chronicle has been more than happy to oblige them and post every last allegation.  They have gleefully called Siegler a cheater while touting John Denholm and Steve Clappart as heroes for attempting to arrest two innocent kids for capital murder.

As it turns out, it doesn't look like Kelly Siegler was the one breaking the rules.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

An Interesting California Case

For those of y'all that think California is off its rocker when it comes to criminal law, you should read this post today at Fault Lines.