Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Coaches

As most people who have met me know, I'm a very proud Native of Bryan, Texas.  Although I haven't lived there since August of 1996, it is my hometown and I hold it near and dear to my heart.  My wife is from there, too, and we visit pretty regularly.

Every morning, I go through my news websites, which consist of checking CNN, the Houston Chronicle, and then the Bryan/College Station Eagle.  Although Houston is my home now, and the hometown of both my boys, Bryan is never too far away from me.  That's a part of my life that I am grateful for.

Today, I saw two pieces of news from my hometown that made me stop and think about growing up, and how much those days shape who you are and who you will become.  Before I go too much further, let me expressly state that I am NOT reliving Glory Days with this post. Under no stretch of the imagination was I a star (or even semi-decent) athlete.  I was terrible.  I weighed 160 lbs, ran about a 3 minute 40 yard dash, and couldn't catch a football if you handed it to me.

But I played high school football for Bryan High School.  It largely consisted of me getting the crap knocked out of me during practice and sitting on the bench during games, but I "played."  At the end of my senior year, we finished 4-7 and I couldn't be more relieved that it was over.

But I was proud that no matter how bad it was, I never quit.

Looking back on those years, I remember each and every one of the coaches that I had.  You spend a lot of time talking to them when you are consistently on the sidelines.  The ones that I played for growing up in Bryan are people that I still remember vividly 26 years past my graduation.  The vast majority of my favorite stories from high school happened in the brutal heat of the practice field of Bryan High School, which is now named Merrill Green Stadium, after our head coach.

I adored Coach Green.  He ultimately retired and became President of the School Board.  He's an icon in the town, and I'm proud to say I (limitedly) played for him.  Other coaches stand out in my memories, as well.  Coach Patterson, Coach Bergland, Coach Vass, Coach Batchelor, Coach Fritsche.  I have funny stories involving them all.

But my favorite coach was David Powers.  He retired this year after 34 years of coaching.  Although he finished his coaching career as the Head Baseball coach, I knew him way back when he coached junior high and then high school.  He coached baseball and he also coached the defensive ends in football.

He was the faculty sponsor of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes when I was in 9th grade.  I remember that he always brought his son, Beau, to the school and games with him whenever he could.  On top of being a good coach, he was a good example.

Yeah, that's me, rockin' the butt cut, next to Coach Powers.

Coach Powers brought out the best in his good players, and he was never anything less than encouraging of those of us who stunk were not so good.  As a coach he made sure his door was open to those kids who needed advice.  He was realistic and real with the kids he talked to, and we all respected him for it.  I remember in 9th grade when two kids had a beef with each other, he mediated it, making sure that the beef was done that day and didn't carry over.

I remember one night in January of 1991.  I went to eat at Red Lobster with my girlfriend and her mom.  As we were waiting for our table, the news broke that the U.S. had begun military operations against Iraq.  By coincidence, Coach Powers was in the lobby, and was watching the breaking news.  I remember his look of concern and he told me he was praying for the soldiers in the Middle East and he was praying for those of us who might be of age to be called there.  It was genuine worry over the kids he coached and it was something I never forgot.

Although our football team my senior team wasn't all that great, our basketball team was.  We had a lot of good players who went on to play college ball, and they made our senior year something to talk to about.

One of our star players was Eric Jackson.  Like most guys I went to school with in Bryan, I can't even remember when I first met him.  He was one of those guys that it seems like I always knew.  

We weren't particularly close, although we were friendly.  He was a very outgoing and very nice guy.  I remember him as being very religious and very devoted to being the best basketball player and teammate that he could be.  As it is with so many classmates, I kept up with him on Facebook and was glad to see that he was happy in life. Married.  Kids.  He became a high school basketball coach.
  
Over the years, Eric coached at Temple, Tomball, Grand Prairie, Hillsboro, and Kennedy Middle School.  Ultimately, he ended up as head coach of the basketball program at Rudder High School in Bryan.  In 2010, he was named Coach of the Year by the Houston Area Basketball Coaches Association.  It was an award aptly given to a good man.

I was extremely saddened to read that Eric passed away yesterday after having been ill for some time.  My heart goes out to his family and all of those he coached and influenced.  But in this time of sadness, it has been heartwarming to see how many teammates and kids that he coached sharing how much he meant to them.  Tributes of how he sent them inspirational Bible passages, and guided them through tough times were a good reminder of the positive influences that our coaches often play in our lives.

We are usually too young to fully appreciate our coaches in the time and the moment when they are in our lives.  Often it is only hindsight that makes us fully appreciate the jobs they did.  In retrospect, those coaches are the first adults that treat kids as some semblance of an adult.  They share their experience, their example, and their advice.  They also hold us accountable and make us live up to expectations in a way that is different than what we learn from our families.

As I do with many of my posts, I recognize that I'm probably rambling.  So I'll end this simply by saying "thanks."

Thanks to the coaches like Coach Powers and Coach Jackson.  Thanks for the patience.  Thanks for the guidance.  Thanks for the leadership.  Thanks for caring.  The mark you make on lives may not always be immediately evident, but it becomes so very palpable in our later years.  

Even to us benchwarmers.

Thanks for 34 great years to Coach Powers as he takes his well-deserved retirement.

And thanks to my classmate Eric Jackson for the job he did in shaping so many lives.  His memory and positive influence will carry on longer than he probably ever imagined.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Top 10 Signs Your Chief Investigator Might Be Working for the Temple Defense Team

10.  Abruptly ends phone calls with elected District Attorney because "Dick is on the other line."

9.  Currently growing out his beard so that he can look more like Stan Schneider.

8.  Keeps bragging about his how his "buddy in Katy" is cooler than all of his old policeman friends.

7.  Received a prestigious award from a prominent Defense Attorney Organization for his work on the Temple Case.

6.  Keeps claiming that the Katy High School Football Team of 1987 was the greatest high school football team in Texas History.

5.  No longer cries in interview with 48 Hours about his old police friends no longer speaking to him.

4.  Currently investigating a group of people known as "the Katy Boys" on their ties to Russia.

3.  Denholm complains that all Temple ever talks about is "Steve.  Steve.  Steve." these days.

2.  Hanging out in felony dockets, looking for witnesses that can help him pin a murder on somebody else.

1.  Wears David Temple's high school letter jacket to work.

Freudian Slip

I received an e-mail today from one of David Temple's attorneys, Romy Kaplan, containing a copy of a motion filed by the Harris County District Attorney's Office today.  The motion, entitled Harris County District Attorney's Amended Motion to Recuse and for Appointment of District Attorney Pro Tem, contained the following pertinent sections:



Now, it is somewhat funny seeing that the Harris County is amending a Motion to Recuse themselves after the original Motion was already granted and new prosecutors appointed.  It's a little bit of "water under the bridge" at this point and I'm not even sure that this Motion has any actual legal bearing.  It would kind of be like me asking to go back and time and claiming that Lykos didn't fire me, because I quit.  

It's a small point.  Obviously the Office was trying to correct the impression that Chief D.A. Investigator Steve Clappart had ever been actually employed by David Temple's defense team.  

Another thing that would have helped them from this impression was, I don't know, NOT STATING IN A LEGAL DOCUMENT THAT STEVE CLAPPART HAD BEEN RETAINED BY TEAM TEMPLE.

But, bygones.  

The Amended Motion goes on to say that an earlier draft of the Motion had inadvertently stated that Clappart was a Temple employee, and that the earlier draft had accidentally been filed by mistake.

Um, okay.  So, at some point early on, the author of the original Motion had been under the belief that Clappart was a Temple employee, but some time later on figured out that he wasn't?  Was there some uncertainty about this somewhere?  I mean, he and his slow-witted friend, John Denholm did accept some Awards on behalf of their work on Temple's defense, and attended the Temple press conference together.

It would seem that in the five months that Kim Ogg had spent "reviewing the Temple case," she might have at least determined whether or not her Chief Investigator was employed by the Defendant.  Seems like kind of a major detail to me, but who am I to judge?

Perhaps it was just a really really humongous Freudian Slip.

NOTE:  Nowhere in the Amended Motion did it mention that Clappart was still actively investigating the Temple case, nor did the District Attorney's Office issue any denials of his ongoing investigation. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Steve Clappart and The Meaning of Recusal

One of the more interesting revelations from the Harris County District Attorney's Office's Motion to Recuse on the David Temple trial on May 5th was that now-Chief Investigator of the D.A.'s Office, Steve Clappart was actually retained by the Temple defense team.

From the Motion:

Prior to this subtle, yet important, revelation, I think it is fair to say that most of us did not realize Clappart had actually been an employee of David Temple's.  We just thought he was looking into some information on behalf of his buddy, John Denholm.  The fact that the lead investigator for the D.A.'s Office actually used to work for David Temple really begs the question "why did it take Kim Ogg so long to realize the tremendous conflict of interest the Office had?"

Regardless of how insanely long it took Ogg to recuse the Office, she ultimately did do so and the Harris County District Attorney's Office is no longer involved in the Temple case at all.

Right?

Well, maybe not.

I received word from multiple sources this morning that former-Temple-investigator-turned-Chief-Investigator-for-the-D.A.'s-Office Steve Clappart may not have gotten the memo on that.

Apparently, one of the named "witnesses" in Clappart and Denholm's silly alternative suspect warrant picked up a Felony D.W.I. warrant this week in a Harris County District Court.  Despite the Office's self-recusal on the Temple case, those sources told me this morning that Clappart went to the court to inform prosecutors not to allow the case to plead without his approval.  He apparently wants to use the witness's precarious legal position as an opportunity to get some real "truth about Temple" out of the guy.

This presents a couple of interesting questions:

1.  Why is the Chief Investigator of all the Investigators in Harris County, Texas so interested in a Felony DWI case?

2.  Does Clappart think he should be approaching a Defendant charged with a felony and interviewing him?

3.  If the D.A.'s Office is no longer handling the prosecution of David Temple, does that mean they can handle his defense?  That seems to be the angle Clappart is working.

4.  Are taxpayers now paying Clappart to work on the Temple defense?

5.  How did Clappart even know this guy got charged with a DWI?  Hundreds of people get charged with a crime in Harris County each day.  How did he know about this one?  The Office can put a "tickler" on the computer for notifications if a certain person picks up new charges.  Did Clappart or (more likely) John Denholm put a "tickler" for this particular witness?

6.  If Denholm or Clappart did put a tickler out for parties they believed to be involved in the Temple case, are they flagrantly violating Kim Ogg's Motion to Recuse?

I don't know the answer to these questions, but it does appear that the Office has not completely relinquished control of the David Temple case quite yet. It seems like this is something that Kim Ogg should probably clarify to the public.

Or, at least, clarify it to Clappart.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

David Temple's New Prosecutors

The Houston Chronicle's Brian Rogers reported today that 178th District Court Judge Kelli Johnson has appointed prosecutors Lisa Tanner and Bill Turner from the Texas Attorney General's Office to prosecute the State of Texas vs. Temple.

To say that Judge Johnson's choice is a good one would be a massive understatement.

Lisa has been with the Attorney General's Office for over twenty years and has been their heavy hitter on tough cases across the State.  She most recently handled the retrial of Bernie Tiede, who was the subject of the movie Bernie.  Mr. Tiede is currently serving 99 years thanks to her efforts.  She was also responsible for trying the actual killer for the murder of Michael Morton's wife.  In short, she is a bad ass.

Bill is the former elected District Attorney of Brazos County where he served before retiring in 2012.  I spent two and a half years working as an intern for him when I was at Texas A&M, and I consider him to be a mentor and one of the best trial prosecutors I've ever seen.  I watched him try three death capitals in the course of one summer and he was amazing in them all.

Although Bill and Lisa are well known for their trial skills, they are even more known for their ethical reputations and integrity.  Neither is afraid to try a tough case, nor are they afraid to dismiss it if it proves to be the right thing to do.  Popularity and public opinion won't be a factor when it comes to how they will handle the Temple case.

When Bill was the D.A. of Brazos County, he prosecuted the Chairman of the Board of Regents for Texas A&M, as well as The University's vice-president.  That wasn't exactly a popular move in Aggieland, especially for an elected Democrat in a heavily Republican county, but Bill forged ahead without concern to public opinion or any external matters.  He did what the law dictated.

And he won.

I've always considered him to be the Atticus Finch of prosecution.  In addition to taking on the upper echelon of A&M, Bill also went toe-to-toe with a corrupt sheriff where his own safety was threatened, and he didn't back away from that either.  He's a man that I admire greatly.

Regardless of what happens on the Temple case after today, the rationale for it will be based on evidence and only evidence.  As I mentioned on Twitter, Bill and Lisa are the gold standard when it comes to prosecution and the case could not be in better hands.

Their appointment is an outstanding choice by Judge Johnson.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Kim Ogg (Finally) Does the Right Thing

Despite my predictions in my previous post about what I believed was going to happen today during David Temple's court appearance in the 178th District Court, the Harris County District Attorney's Office finally recused itself from the high publicity murder case.

Regardless of the strengths or weaknesses of the facts of the case against Temple, it was unquestionably the right thing to do.  Although Kim Ogg took entirely too long arriving at (what many felt was) the obvious conclusion, the important thing is that she ultimately got there.  Whatever decisions are made about David Temple from here on out will be made without the improper influence of the members of Temple's defense team who now work within Ogg's Administration.

It is human nature to still feel frustration about how long Ogg took to recuse herself from the case and how little she communicated with Belinda Temple's family during the ordeal.  Her explanation that she needed more time to "review the case" rang hollow, and I heard from a couple of sources that the Temple file never actually left the hallways of the Appellate Division.  More likely, she needed some time to work up the courage to tell DeGuerin that she couldn't dismiss his case for him.

Whatever went on behind the scenes, Kim Ogg can now focus on being a progressive District Attorney in a major metropolitan area without having the looming specter of David Temple hanging over her head.  Although she may not realize it at the moment, she did herself a huge favor by finally letting go of the case.  Her reputation can recover from the appearance of impropriety that she brought upon herself for the first four months of her tenure.

More importantly, the family of Belinda Temple can know that the person or agency handling their case from now on doesn't owe David Temple's attorney any huge favors, or employ people like Steve Clappart or John Denholm, who would be willing to file capital murder charges on someone just to cast doubt on David Temple's guilt.

What happens after today will be up to somebody else, but the State of Texas versus David Temple can hopefully finally escape all of the sideshow that has been going on around it and return to the facts of the case.

If that happens, then today was a good day.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Foreshadowing

Last week, the Houston Chronicle ran this article about the Harris County District Attorney's Office dropping charges against Dr. Robert Yetman.  As noted in the article, Dr. Yetman had been granted a mistrial after trial Judge Stacey Bond found that prosecutors had intentionally caused a mistrial by making inflammatory remarks during closing arguments.



The District Attorney's Office under Devon Anderson had appealed Judge Bond's ruling, but the 14th Court of Appeals affirmed.  Last week, District Attorney Kim Ogg announced that the Office would not be appealing the case any further, and formally dismissed charges against Dr. Yetman.  The move was not surprising under the circumstances, and it was the right thing to do.

I did find the press release from Ogg to be noteworthy:
"We do not tolerate professional misconduct, lapses in discipline or excessive zeal to win a case," Ogg said in a press release.  "A prosecutor's special responsibility is to see that justice is done, not simply to win, and never do so illegally."
While the sentiment expressed by Ogg is admirable, it oversimplifies things a bit.  Not tolerating professional misconduct is a noble goal, and in this incident, both prosecutors involved in Yetman's trial were let go from the Office when Ogg took over.  Their termination was certainly an example of Ogg sending a clear message that there are ramifications for prosecutors who push the envelope too far.

However, Ogg could have just as easily stated something along the lines of respecting the ruling of the trial court and 14th Court of Appeals, and dismissed the case.  Her statement was far more broad than that.

My guess is that she made her statement because she is getting close to finally dismissing the case against David Temple, who is on the docket in the 178th District Court on Friday, May 5th.  Despite finding multiple excuses to recuse the District Attorney's Office on multiple other cases for much less significant reasons, Ogg has still steadfastly refused to recuse herself from Temple, despite having at least two people in her upper echelon who directly worked on the case.

I predict that Ogg is going to harken back to her press release on the Yetman case and place her reasoning for the dismissal on Kelly Siegler's doorstep.

The problem with doing this is that it punishes the victim and the victim's family for acts attributed to a prosecutor.  The scenario in Temple is completely different from the one in Yetman.  In Yetman, Judge Bond found that the prosecutors believed themselves to be losing the case, so they deliberately caused a mistrial by making an inappropriate argument.  In Temple, the Court of Appeals decided (in a split decision) that Temple deserved a new trial because Brady evidence was turned over in an untimely manner.

Temple was found guilty in trial and sentenced to Life in prison.  No argument can be made that the prosecution deliberately violated the law to cause a mistrial because they believed they were losing.  That would be the equivalent of arguing that James Harden should have been called for traveling in Monday's 122-76 blowout, and therefore, the Spurs were the actual winners of the game.

If Ogg is going to dismiss a case every time a prosecutor is found to have done something wrong in a reversal, she's going to be firing a lot of prosecutors and dismissing a lot of cases over the next four years.  I don't foresee that really happening, because Ogg is smart enough to know that cases sometimes get reversed as part of the evolution of case law.

But I do predict that Ogg is going to be regurgitating her statement on Yetman in the near future.  She wasn't talking about his case so much as she was providing foreshadowing of what she is about to do on Temple.