HOUSTON – The Harris County District Attorney’s Office moved to recuse itself Friday from the case of David Temple, convicted in 2007 for the murder of his wife Belinda.
She was found shot to death at her home in Katy on Jan. 11, 1999. Temple was later indicted in 2005 by a Harris County Grand Jury and convicted after a high profile jury trial between then-prosecutor Kelly Siegler and defense attorney Dick DeGuerin.
“Our duty is simply to do justice, not just win,” District Attorney Kim Ogg said.
The recusal, filed with the 178th District Court, clears the way for the trial court to appoint a special prosecutor who would take over the Temple case and determine the next steps.
In November, 2016, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Temple’s conviction and life sentence, adopting a state district judge’s findings that the prosecution had failed to turn over in a timely manner several hundred pages of offense reports that revealed additional possible suspects.
The court further found that the state completely failed to turn over to defense lawyers hundreds of pages of additional reports that the prosecutor simply felt was unbelievable or unhelpful for her side.
The Court of Criminal Appeals found that, “The prosecutor believed, as evidenced by her testimony at the writ hearing that she was not required to turn over favorable evidence if she did not believe it to be relevant, inconsistent, or credible.” It concluded that, “this prosecutor’s misconception regarding her duty [to turn over evidence favorable to the defendant] was ‘of enormous significance.’”
The remand requires the district attorney to retry or dismiss the case against Temple. Devon Anderson, the district attorney at that time, took no action.
“Prosecutors have a responsibility to let jurors hear all the relevant facts. That did not happen in this case,” Ogg said. “Justice has delayed for 17 years.”
After taking office in January of this year, Ogg began reviewing the case. In addition to issues raised in the court’s opinions, potential conflict of interest issues arose.
Judge David Mendoza, director of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office’s newly formed Office of Professional Integrity, denied Temple’s 2012 motion for new trial while he was the presiding judge of the 178th District Court.
Investigator Stephen Clappart, while earlier employed at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, investigated potentially exculpatory leads related to the murder of Belinda Temple.
In 2014, Clappart, then employed as a sergeant/investigator with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, was subpoenaed as a witness for the defense during evidentiary proceedings in state district court related to Temple’s application for habeas corpus relief.
Investigator Clappart is now the chief investigator for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
Given an attorney’s ethical obligation to avoid conflicts of interest, Ogg’s motion to recuse the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is consistent with the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.
“The victim and the accused deserve justice in every case,” said Ogg, "just as the people of Harris County deserve a proper and thorough evaluation of the evidence.”
Upon the district attorney’s recusal, the presiding judge will appoint an experienced and fair special prosecutor, who will then be required to make a determination as to retrial or dismissal.