Sunday, August 11, 2019

Temple Trial Takeaways

As you doubtlessly know by now, the punishment phase of The State of Texas vs. David Temple ended in a mistrial on Friday after jurors failed to reach an agreement on an appropriate punishment for the man they easily convicted of murder.

I've heard from multiple credible sources that the split between the jurors was 10-2, with ten of the jurors demanding Life in prison for the man they convicted of killing his 8-month-pregnant wife, Belinda, by placing a shotgun to the back of her head and pulling the trigger.  The remaining two jurors were holding out for something far less and neither side seemed willing to budge from their position despite almost two days of deliberations.

A jury that convicts but then deadlocks over punishment is not unheard of, but it is fairly uncommon.  Since Temple was convicted of a 1999 murder, the law of 1999 applies to the case.  Back then a person could receive probation for murder, so Temple could technically receive it, as well.  Due to this, there is apparently an argument to be made that Temple could be placed on bond while awaiting his punishment.

If 178th District Court Judge Kelli Johnson elects to give Temple a bond, she will doubtlessly consider the brutality of the case, how many jurors wanted Life for Temple, and the fact that when released from jail in 2016, Temple vowed "for the people that lied and cheated who put me there to be held accountable."  Texas Attorney General Prosecutors Lisa Tanner and Bill Turner will likely point out that these combined factors make Temple a high flight risk with a revenge agenda who has nothing to lose.

Although the hung jury on punishment prevented bringing the 20-year saga of David Temple to a complete close, the fact that he was convicted again will more than suffice for the time being.

It has been a long and winding road that gave David Temple a second chance at getting away with murder, one that most murderers don't get.

Temple was originally convicted and sentenced to Life in 2007 in a trial that pitted Harris County Assistant District Attorney Kelly Siegler against prominent defense attorney Dick DeGuerin.  Despite the fact that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the case, DeGuerin lobbied the District Attorney's Office under then-D.A. (and Siegler's political rival) Pat Lykos to perform an off-the-books investigation into an alternate suspect.

In July of 2012, Pat Lykos was a "lame duck" D.A., having lost her bid for re-election to Mike Anderson in the Republican Primary.  DeGuerin asked then-1st Assistant Jim Leitner to "review" the Temple case before the Lykos Circus left town at the end of December.  Inexplicably, Leitner complied, as I detailed in this post.

Leitner had been informed that newly-minted defense attorney and former Harris County Homicide Lieutenant John Denholm had been sucking up to working for DeGuerin on developing an "alternate suspect" to the murder of Belinda Temple.  Despite the fact that the Court of Criminal Appeals had recently affirmed Temple's conviction, Leitner was more than happy to do DeGuerin's bidding and assigned Denholm's buddy (and current HCDA investigator) Steve Clappart to work on the case.

By September 2012, the dream team of Clappart and Denholm had drafted a Capital Murder warrant for the arrest of a "suspect" named Cody Ray Ellis based on evidence so absurd that I won't even address it in this post.  You can check out the legal document that these two nimwits tried to get signed by clicking here.   (NOTE:  Don't forget to scroll down to the transcript where Leitner testified that he would have signed that warrant.)

Here's a fun fact, in case you didn't pick up on it already:  During the retrial, Stan Schneider didn't even advance Ellis as his "alternate suspect," instead focusing on another teenager from the neighborhood, Riley Joe Sanders.  The juries in both the 2007 and 2019 trials quickly rejected all alternate suspects in favor of Temple.



In the meantime, DeGuerin (now joined by Stanley Schneider) filed 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." (Stanley apparently gets paid by the word.)  It is worth noting that during all of this, the Lykos Administration never bothered communicating what was going on to the family of Belinda Lucas Temple, which is something I noted here.


Wanting to avoid the appearance of impropriety, Lykos appointed local defense attorney Brad Beers to be a "special prosecutor" on the Temple matter.  There was a small conflict of interest on that, however, seeing as how Beers had previously represented Clappart twice (once in a lawsuit and once on a disciplinary infraction within the Office).

All of this ultimately led to a hearing in 2015 that David Temple wasn't entitled to and that very few others have been the beneficiary of.  During that hearing, Stan Schnieder and then-licensed attorney Casie Gotro got to revisit the entirety of the Temple case.  That rendition of Team Temple rejected at least five judges to hear the extra-judicial hearing before settling on Judge Larry Gist.

As we all know, the multi-week hearing ultimately resulted in findings from Gist that Kelly Siegler had been untimely in turning over evidence to Dick DeGuerin during the 2007 trial, and recommended that Temple receive a new trial.  My opinion then and my opinion now is that Judge Gist wasn't paying attention to much of the evidence that he was hearing.  He certainly wasn't paying attention when he signed off on an order where Gotro and Schneider had slipped in an extra finding.

I know that I'm biased, because Kelly Siegler is one of my best friends, but I will go to my grave feeling that the District Attorney's response to Gist's finding, coupled with Houston Press journalist Craig Malisow's article Unreasonable Doubt: Did Kelly Siegler Really Railroad an Innocent Man Eight Years Ago held far more accurate accounts of the Temple hearing than Gist's findings.

Regardless of how I feel, or how Kelly Siegler's detractors feel, David Temple ultimately got his case reversed.  Due to Kelly's fame as one of the best prosecutors in the State of Texas, the Houston Chronicle writers were ecstatic.  Lisa Falkenberg wrote a really touching article on how Clappart and Denholm were heroic and brave for taking a stand in pursuing the "real killer," despite losing friends.

SPOILER ALERT:  Denholm and Clappart lost friends because everyone knew that they (and their warrant) were full of shit, Lisa.  They were full of shit then and they are full of shit now.  Just FYI.

Brother Denholm even had the audacity to file a grievance against me with the State Bar (with attached affidavits from Gotro and Schneider) for daring to blog about Temple (and try to ruin Temple's fight for freedom).  It got rejected summarily.  I'm still a practicing lawyer, and that's all I'll say about that topic.

And then came the Reign of Ogg.

Kim Ogg took Office on January 1, 2017, and in her inauguration speech, she thanked Dick DeGuerin profusely for all he had done for her and her career.  Within a week, she vowed to be the One Woman Review Team who decided whether or not the District Attorney's Office would retry David Temple.  She appointed Steve Clappart to be her CHIEF investigator, and hired John Denholm to a Division Chief position.  Despite these clear conflicts of interest with Team Temple, Ogg steadfastly refused to recuse herself from the case.

Again, the Houston Chronicle was giddy with the prospect of the Temple Case being dismissed, because, you know, Kelly Siegler cheated!




While in the midst of Ogg's One Woman Review of Temple, DeGuerin even threw her a fundraiser! It was co-hosted by Paul Looney, who had also been a member of Team Temple at one point.


Coincidentally, Team Temple attorney Stan Schneider said that he was "completely comfortable" in whatever Ogg decided.  Gee, I wonder why.  

Ultimately, Kim Ogg relented under public pressure and recused the Harris County District Attorney's Office from The State of Texas vs. David Temple.

And the result? Justice. He was convicted again of Murder last week.

The circus that surrounded his case merely resulted in him getting a two and a half year break from prison that he clearly did not deserve.  Somewhere in the midst of all of this, the prosecutorial team of Lisa Tanner and Bill Turner were able to turn the focus back to the evidence of the case and back to Belinda Lucas Temple and her unborn daughter, Erin.

The postponement of the punishment phase to March will hopefully serve as merely an extremely lengthy epilogue for David Temple.  The real story concluded with the guilty verdict and Temple going back into custody.

Justice prevailed last week.