Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg on Friday moved to recuse her office from a possible retrial of David Temple for the murder of his wife, Belinda — opening the door for a special prosecutor to take the case.
"Our duty is simply to do justice, not just win," Ogg said in a statement.
A jury convicted David Temple for Belinda's murder in 2007, eight years after she was shot to death in the couple's Katy home. She was eight months pregnant. Temple has maintained his innocence, and last year the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in a split decision that the prosecutor did not timely turn over potentially exculpatory evidence to Temple's attorney, Dick Deguerin.
Ogg's office asked Harris County District Court Judge Kelli Johnson to appoint a special prosecutor.
Temple's appellate attorney, Stan Schneider, told reporters that Temple is innocent and that "we look forward to our day in court." (Temple was present but silent.)
Standing beside Belinda's brother Brian Lucas, Andy Kahan of the Houston Mayor's Crime Office said the Lucases were "extremely relieved" with Ogg's decision.
Kahan, the Lucases and other supporters have been pushing for Ogg to hand the case to a special prosecutor since Ogg took office in January. Although Ogg had immediately recused her office from other pending felony cases that had potential conflicts of interest, she wavered on the Temple case, even though key members of her staff previously championed Temple's innocence.
The state's motion to recuse cites some of these people, including Ogg's current chief investigator, Stephen Clappart, who "was retained by counsel for David Mark Temple to investigate potentially exculpatory leads related to the murder of Belinda Temple." (Clappart did far more than that: He sought to charge another man with the murder, but could not find a judge to sign an arrest warrant.)
"Belinda deserves a new trial," Kahan said, adding that he's confident that a new jury would "very quickly" convict Temple of murder "just like we did the first time."
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Ogg's statement also stressed that "prosecutors have a responsibility to let jurors hear all the relevant facts. That did not happen in this case. Justice has [been] delayed for 17 years."
The statement continued: "While this case has been in the public eye since long before I was elected last fall, it is but one of over 100 murders our administration has reviewed and evaluated since [January]. Each case requires individual attention and review without any conflict."
It's kind of a weird thing to say since, as previously noted, Ogg's office recused itself from multiple cases where — as in the Temple case — a conflict was clear.
The decision was clearly a disappointment for Temple, who, in a tape-recorded phone conversation heard by the jury in 2007, didn't seem to care much about who killed his wife. When Belinda's sister Brenda asked Temple, shortly after the murder, if he really wanted to find out who killed his wife, Temple's response was cut-and-dry: "What difference would it make?"