A visiting judge has accused former Harris County prosecutor Kelly Siegler of withholding evidence in the murder case against David Mark Temple, who was convicted of killing his wife in 2007, and has recommended that Temple be granted a new trial.
Judge Larry Gist's findings, which were issued Wednesday after nearly three months of witness testimony in a habeas hearing, are not binding; it's now up to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to decide whether the former Katy football star and high school coach was denied a fair trial in a high-profile case pitting two outsized egos — Siegler and defense attorney Dick DeGuerin — against each other. (The CCA previously denied Temple's appeal).
"Both were famous and neither could stand losing to each other," Gist wrote in his 19-page recommendation, issued Wednesday.
But the finding paints a picture of Siegler being overzealous to the point of depriving Temple of a fair trial, leading to his conviction for the shotgun slaying of his wife Belinda in 1999.
Prosecutors "intentionally, deliberately, or negligently failed to disclose" investigators' reports and witness statements that pointed to other suspects, but Siegler continued the suppression even following the conviction, according to the findings.
Siegler testified in the habeas hearing that potential exculpatory evidence didn't need to be disclosed if prosecutors "did not believe it was true," according to the findings.
Gist also wrote that Siegler influenced post-trial maneuvers by telling police and officials within the DA's Office not to disclose public records if they were requested. The findings also state that Siegler continued to pull strings even after leaving the DA's Office in 2008, after 21 years, by getting an alleged witness who approached DeGuerin after the trial to change his story.
In that situation, Daniel Glasscock gave DeGuerin a sworn statement that he overheard another man implicate himself in the murder. Glasscock passed a polygraph administered by the DA's Office and also gave the same story to a DA's investigator.
But Siegler "asked" a Harris County Sheriff's deputy — who was involved with the trial investigation — to contact Glassock and another witness "before they could be contacted by the Special Prosecutor [in the habeas investigation] or current members of the District Attorney's Office. The Deputy did so and afterwards, their stories were significantly different than the original version," according to the finding.
"In substance, Glasscock repudiated the most important details to the extent that his future credibility as a witness is significantly impaired," Gist wrote.
At trial, DeGuerin argued that Belinda Temple, who was eight months pregnant, was killed by teenagers during a burglary. But prosecutors said that David Temple was having an affair and had a clear motive to kill his wife. Temple was sentenced to life in prison.
Houston attorney Paul Looney, who worked on Temple's case before DeGuerin took over, told the Houston Press that Siegler's ultimate goal was to use the case as leverage to get her own TV reality series — an idea she had unsuccessfully pitched once before.
Siegler then asked to take over the Temple case, which had been languishing for years because the original grand jury chose not to indict.
"This was her opportunity to enhance her resume to the point where she would get her TV show," Looney said. "It worked, she got the show ("Cold Justice" on TNT). But boy, at what a price. At the price of David Temple's life, at the price of an entire family's reputation, and at the price of her own integrity."
As for Siegler's impression of exculpatory evidence, Looney said, "If Kelly's bizarre interpretation of that rule were ever to be the law, then all a prosecutor would ever have to do to keep any witness statement away from the defense is say, 'Well, I didn't believe it, so I didn't give it to the defense.' That's never been the law, it would totally eliminate law, but she just boldly stated it — and the only thing I can figure is she's trying to find some arguable basis to try to defend her law license from the ultimate scrutiny of the State Bar of Texas, which undoubtedly is going to happen over this case."
But Looney alleged that Siegler not only violated professional ethical standards, but that she committed a felony by obstructing justice.
"If Kelly Siegler's a lawyer in five years, I'll be shocked," Looney said. "And if she's not a felon in five years, it'll be because [District Attorney] Devon Anderson decided to protect her own friend."
Most of the investigators' reports and witness statements revealed at the habeas hearing were not available — or even known — to Temple's appellate lawyers, and were only discovered after Temple's latest team filed a post-conviction writ. (Looney gave props to Temple's current lawyers, Stanley Schneider and Casie Gotro, saying they conducted "some of the best legal work that'll ever be done in our state.")
"They went in and started looking through all the files, and they had a 'holy shit' moment where they're looking at stuff that nobody's ever seen or heard of before," Looney said.
Siegler was not available for comment, but we'll update if we hear back.