Convicted wife-killer David Temple deserves a new trial because the prosecutor in his case withheld exculpatory evidence, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Wednesday.
In a split decision, the majority of the judges agreed with visiting Judge Larry Gist, who presided over a habeas hearing more than a year ago, in which he heard from witnesses who testified at Temple's 2007 trial, as well as new witnesses.
Temple, a former high school football coach, was convicted of the 1999 shooting death of his pregnant wife, Belinda. Prosecutors argue that Temple wanted to get rid of Belinda so that he could continue a relationship he had started with another woman, whom he later married.
Temple's lawyers have long argued that former prosecutor Kelly Siegler withheld 1,400 pages of investigators' reports that pointed to another suspect — documents that should have been turned over under the Brady rule — and that Temple's trial attorney, Richard Deguerin, was prevented from mounting a proper defense.
Judge Bert Richardson wrote that Deguerin's defense was:
"limited and hampered by the State's failure to turn over to the defense the policy offense reports containing favorable evidence that would have allowed a more effective presentation of an alternate suspect."
The appeal was filed by Stanley Schneider and Casie Gotro, who launched a massive PR campaign accusing Siegler of deliberately burying evidence. The Criminal Court of Appeals ruled that Siegler
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"may not have purposely or actively hidden the existence of information uncovered by the police investigation; however, she was not forthcoming with what could be viewed as Brady evidence contained within police reports."
In a concurring opinion, Judge Kevin Yeary wrote that he was unpersuaded by the Brady argument, but would grant relief on the appellate attorneys' ineffective assistance of counsel claim. This was based primarily on inconsistent testimony provided by Temple's father that was meant to throw off the prosecution's timeline.
Yeary also pointed out the appellate attorneys' misstatements of the record — such as a misleading description of allegedly exculpatory tape-recorded witness interviews — that we found troubling in our review of the case last year.
Lynn Hardaway, chief of the Harris County District Attorney's post-conviction writs division, told the Houston Press in an email: "I was disappointed in the decision. Also, I want to point out that this was a decision of a sharply divided court, with three dissents and one concurring opinion finding that relief should be granted, not on the basis of Brady, but on ineffective assistance of trial counsel."