HOUSTON (Covering Katy) – Kathryn Casey, a Houston true crime author who witnessed the trial of David Temple and wrote a book about the murder of his pregnant wife, believes the new Harris County District Attorney is to heavily tied to the defense team of David Temple and should recuse herself from deciding if the former Katy resident should get a new trial.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg is in the process of deciding whether to retry Temple or dismiss the murder case against him after his 2007 murder conviction was tossed out amid findings of prosecutorial misconduct.
Casey wrote a book about the murder of Belinda Temple and it was titled Shattered.
Below is the open letter to Ogg that Casey published on Friday January 6, 2017.
Dear Ms. Ogg
I am writing to you today out of deep concern for what is happening in the David Temple case. I am a Houston-based journalist and the author of fourteen books. One of my books, SHATTERED, is on this case. Compiling my research, I not only sat in the courtroom throughout the trial but interviewed many of those involved.
As you know, this is a particularly horrific murder. Belinda Temple, a beloved Katy High School teacher, was eight-months pregnant with a baby girl at the time of her killing. On January 11, 1999, someone put a 12-gauge shotgun up to the back of her head and pulled the trigger. Nearly eight years later, her husband, David, was convicted of the crime. This past November, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals set aside the verdict and ordered a new trial. At this time, Mr. Temple is out of prison and awaiting a retrial.
Ms Ogg, I have no problem with the CCA’s ruling on the Temple case. If David Temple didn’t get a fair trial, he absolutely deserves one. On the other hand, the victims, Belinda Temple and her unborn child, Erin, and the people of Harris County deserve a fair handling of the case. I’ve read that David’s defense team is pushing to have David declared an innocent man without a new trial. I find this troubling for multiple reasons:
• First: the appeal’s courts have repeatedly found against the defense team’s claims of “actual innocence” in David’s appeals. They never exonerated him.
• The courts have ruled that there was legally sufficient evidence to convict David.
• The courts haven’t cited any substantial new evidence in the case that clears David.
• None of the evidence used in David Temple’s murder trial has been ruled inadmissible, which means all the evidence jurors considered in his murder trial – that used to convict him – remains available to prosecutors for use in a new trial.
• In fact, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision was very limited. It decreed that David deserved a new trial principally because his defense team wasn’t given information early enough to use it to its best advantage during his trial.
Obviously, this is an important matter. With his freedom on the line, David Temple deserved every break the law afforded him. But the ruling awarded a new trial, not that he be declared innocent.
Another reason I’m reaching out to you is that I find it disheartening when evidence becomes muddled, as it appears it has in this case, where much of what has been claimed to “prove” David Temple’s innocence doesn’t match the trial record or evidence.
For instance, I have heard some associated with the defense suggest that there is no evidence David ever owned a 12-gauge shotgun. In fact, a friend of David’s younger brother testified at the trial that David owned a 12-gauge. On the stand, Clint Stockdick, who hunted with the Temple brothers, went so far as to describe the make of the shotgun. David’s 12-gauge shotgun was never produced for testing, and he has consistently denied ever owning one.
It has been said that David Temple didn’t have anything in the house that suggested he still owned a shotgun at the time of Belinda’s murder. But at his trial, multiple witnesses testified to seeing shotgun shells in his garage.
Most troubling, there’s been much said about a 3:30 PM cell phone call Belinda made to David on the afternoon of her murder. The location the call was made from is important because it would indicate where Belinda was at that time. That could impact the timeline of how the events unfolded that day.
In their appeal, Temple’s defense attorneys pointed to two tape-recorded interviews that they said indicated the call was made from the Katy High School campus. If that were true, it would place Belinda Temple on the school campus at 3:30, and that would push back the timeline. One of David’s attorneys has said that this particular evidence proves Temple’s innocence.
When I heard this, I felt compelled to investigate the claims. If there is any evidence suggesting David couldn’t have murdered Belinda, I want to do what I can to help. I would never want an innocent man to serve time in prison. This evidence didn’t fit what I learned while researching the book, but I wanted to give it a fair assessment.
So, I listened to the two tape recorded interviews.
The first one was of a woman named Courtney Ferguson. Like Kevin Patrick Yeary, a justice on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals who wrote in an opinion that he listened to the tape, I heard nothing in Ferguson’s statement about Belinda making a phone call from the Katy High School Campus at 3:30 that afternoon.
The second interview cited was with Margaret Christen, an assistant principal. She testified at the trial and didn’t say anything about that 3:30 call. In her tape-recorded interview with detectives, however, Christen did make an ambiguous statement about a phone call. So I followed up, found Christen and interviewed her. On the phone, Margaret Christen denied knowing anything about the 3:30 phone call. She said the phone call she referred to in her taped interview was the one she testified to at trial, one Belinda made earlier that day.
So prime evidence of an alternate timeline the defense points to as proof of David Temple’s innocence doesn’t appear to hold true.
In Thursday’s (January 5, 2017) Houston Chronicle, David’s lead appeal attorney, Stan Schneider, didn’t call for an investigation into any other suspects in Belinda’s murder. Instead he said: “Unfortunately, the way this prosecution went down, I don’t think anyone could ever really be prosecuted.” As far as I know, David Temple also hasn’t publicly asked police to look for the murderer who put a shotgun to the back of his heavily pregnant wife’s head and pulled the trigger.
So that’s it. Apparently without any evidence confirming his innocence – remember the appeals courts didn’t cite anything “particularly momentous” – David Temple’s defense team wants him declared innocent. And Belinda and her unborn daughter, Erin, are to be forgotten.
Complicating this situation further, Ms. Ogg, questions are being raised about the ability of your office to be impartial in this case. Some wonder if too many in your office have ties to the Temple defense for there to be confidence in a decision.
For instance, two of your recently hired staffers, chief of intake, John Denholm, and your top investigator, Steve Clappart, have given interviews to the press backing Temple. Both worked to have him freed. Joanne Musick, who oversees your sex crimes unit, headed the county’s criminal lawyer’s association when it ran a blog declaring David Temple an innocent man. The head of your grand jury unit, Jim Leitner, also pushed to get David Temple out of prison. You personally included David Temple’s trial attorney, Dick DeGuerin, in the list of those you thanked on the day you were sworn in.
Unfortunately under these circumstances, however your office handles this case, questions will linger. Whatever is decided, if the decisions are made by you or others in your office, they’ll fall under suspicion of possible bias and improprieties. The result either way is that this case will cast a long shadow over your nascent administration. This should be a particularly uncomfortable situation for a district attorney who ran on a platform of transparency.
The good news is that there’s an easy solution: the David Temple case needs a fresh set of eyes. It shouldn’t be decided by people linked to his defense team or who have already expressed viewpoints on his guilt or innocence, but by impartial, uninvolved prosecutors. For that reason, I urge you to turn the David Temple case over to the Texas State Attorney General’s office. There it can be reviewed and decisions can made without any appearance of conflicts of interest. Through the AG’s office, a decision can be made regarding a second trial, one in which twelve new jurors will have the opportunity to assess the evidence and rule on David Temple’s innocence or guilt.
Ms. Ogg, take the high road. Walk away from this case. It can’t help your new administration, only harm it. There is intense public interest in this case, and the people of Harris County need to know it is being handled based solely on the evidence.