Cold Prosecutorial Misconduct in Houston Texas

An unauthorized broadcast of courtroom footage at the retrial of David Temple could lead to a mistrial being declared.

David Temple is standing trial for the second time in connection with the 1999 slaying of his wife Belinda Temple.

Judge Kellie Johnson announced Tuesday that KHOU-TV violated a court order by broadcasting audio from proceedings on the first day of the retrial. The footage included video from a recess that may have divulged conversations between David Temple and his attorney.

David Temple’s attorneys said they may request a mistrial after reviewing what was broadcast.

The retrial of a former high school football coach accused of killing his pregnant wife two decades ago began Monday with opening statements. 

Three people who knew Belinda Temple, including two teachers who worked with her at Katy High School, were the first set of witnesses to be called by the prosecution to testify. 

An unusual family reunion of sorts unfolded inside the downtown Houston courtroom where the trial is being held. For the first time in over a decade, the Temples and the Lucases — Belinda’s Temple’s family — are all together, reliving the memories of a 20-year-old murder case. 

David Temple is charged with murder in the 1999 slaying of Belinda Temple. He sat at a table in the courtroom while prosecutors and his attorneys laid out their cases to the jurors.

After more than two hours of opening statements, the judge called a recess for lunch.

David Temple spent nine years in prison after a jury convicted him in 2007. After a lengthy appeals process, his conviction was overturned in 2016 for prosecutorial misconduct. He was released on bond while he awaited a new trial.

Special prosecutors were appointed by a judge in 2017 to review the case and decide whether Temple would be tried again.

Defense attorney Stanley Schneider explained to jurors in his opening statements that timeline of the murder is flawed. 

“David Temple could not have killed his wife, even though he betrayed her. But law enforcement betrayed us by their investigation. As we listen to this evidence, one thing is going to be clear, this timeline is anchored in facts. It is anchored in contemporaneous statements by Ken Temple on Jan. 11. It is anchored by time and distance that can’t be changed,” – Schneider said. 

Kelly Seigler former Harris County DA and star of Cold Justice. The legendary former prosecutor responded to allegations of 36 different instances of prosecutorial misconduct during the infamous 2007 murder trial.

Texas District Judge Larry Gist took the theatrical prosecutor to task for her behavior before and during the murder trial of David Temple, who was convicted of killing his pregnant wife Belinda Lucas Temple in Katy in 1999.

Siegler, who now stars on Cold Justice, had not responded to calls for comment since the ruling was released.

In a statement to the Houston Chronicle by her lawyer, noted Atlanta attorney Lin Wood, Siegler said: “The Chronicle has neglected to mention that the findings made by Judge Gist in the latest Temple hearing are made by the 13th judge to hear the exact same assertions previously made by Dick DeGuerin on behalf of his client,” she said. “While I always respect any judge I practice in front of, I do disagree with these findings and look forward to detailed and documented response to be filed by the District Attorney’s office in the near future.”

In a 19-page decision issued last July, Gist recommended that Temple get a new trial because Siegler withheld evidence that could have helped Temple, including investigations of alternative suspects.

“The defendant has shown he was denied a fair trial because of the state’s failure to disclose or timely disclose favorable evidence,” Gist said. “And had that evidence been disclosed or disclosed timely, the results of the trial would have been different.”

Although several courts have looked at the case and upheld the conviction, some judges have disagreed with the way the trial played out.

Gist cited Siegler’s “constant resistance” to share evidence helpful to the defense, known as Brady information, as required by law. She called only a small number of investigators to testify because she didn’t want DeGuerin to have access to all of their reports. She waited until the middle of trial to share other exculpatory evidence, making it impossible for DeGuerin to investigate it.

Gist suggested that, at times, Siegler lied in court: She told the trial judge there wasn’t favorable defense information when there was, and, during the habeus hearing, she claimed she hadn’t listened to recordings that contained favorable defense facts when she had.

“And then there was the shotgun that could have been the murder weapon, and the report on the shotgun that nobody knows anything about.  Smart people can get so stupid sometimes.” – Judge Larry Gist

Bill Harmon, a former state district judge who ruled on pretrial motions in the case, said in a sworn affidavit in 2013 that he would have ordered the release of reports, statements and lie detector results connected to a police investigation of a teenage neighbor if he had known about them.

Temple supporters continually have said a teenaged neighbor may be the killer, a claim that has been repeatedly refuted by prosecutors and that neighbor’s attorney.

The recent ruling, from Gist, came after a two-month hearing in which lawyers for Temple questioned more than a dozen witnesses, including Siegler, about what evidence was given to Temple’s former lawyer, Dick DeGuerin. Prosecutors are required by law to hand over exculpatory evidence.

Until Gist convened the hearing, no judge reviewing this case knew the state had a 1,300-page offense report, 1,000 pages of which the defense was never allowed to read.

“While the case was appealed, the appellate courts did not have the benefit of the complete offense report, all of the grand jury testimony and what we learned in the hearing,” Schneider said. “Judge Gist’s findings reflect the complete record.”

Prominent former Houston prosecutor Kelly Siegler built a 20-year career out of securing convictions in tough murder cases, especially those that for years had been unsolved.

It was that reputation for tenacity and pluck that landed the local legend a starring role on “Cold Justice,” a nationally televised reality show, after she left the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in 2008.

But this is not the only time she has found herself fighting for her reputation. An Ohio man who was acquitted earlier of a 1981 slaying sued Siegler, her TV show and law enforcement for defamation.

Steven Noffsinger filed suit because of an August 2014 broadcast in which he was accused of killing his ex-wife, Alma, more than 30 years earlier.

Noffsinger was found not guilty after spending nine months in jail without bail after being indicted in the Ohio slaying.

“The defendants’ collective investigations, which occurred in 2014, were an attempt to resurrect a “cold case,” and resulted in an unreasonably reckless disregard for and malicious prosecution of plaintiff in violation of the United States and Ohio Constitutions and state law,” the lawsuit states.

TNT did not resume the Cold Justice series. However another network did.

In the civil lawsuit, Noffsinger is suing Siegler, her co-host, former Las Vegas medical examiner Yolanda McClary, their production company and the network that broadcasts the show, TNT.

He also is suing the sheriff’s office in Paulding, Ohio, which worked with the show to pursue charges against him 33 years after the killing.

“The production, taken as a whole, leaves the unmistakable impression with the audience that the plaintiff is a killer and, specifically, that he was the perpetrator in the murder of Alma Noffsinger, without ever mentioning that the State of Ohio determined not to pursue the matter with the evidence it had in 1981, which was more than the evidence presented in the production,” according to the lawsuit.”

Noffsinger is suing for at least $75,000 plus lawyers fees and is also asking for a jury to determine punitive damages. He is alleging invasion of privacy, malicious prosecution, defamation and the intentional infliction of severe emotional distress.

Siegler remains under scrutiny in Houston for her tactics.

Siegler is also accused of unethical conduct in the case of Howard Guidry when she twice convicted him. In many of these instances, it is hard to imagine a plausible excuse by Siegler. For example, Siegler never revealed to Guidry’s lawyers that crime scene investigators found fingerprints that were not Guidry’s on the victim’s car door and front fender. That is precisely where the police thought the shooter would have stood. Not only did the fingerprints belong to a suspect in the case but the man actually resembled Guidry.

federal appeals court has ruled in the Guidry case police coerced an incriminating statement and Siegler was found to have “admitted unlawful confessions into evidence and used hearsay evidence.”

Siegler had 68 murder trials and now attorneys are examining all of those cases.