HOUSTON – A Houston-area man serving life in prison for the 1999 killing of his pregnant wife was wrongly convicted, Texas’ highest criminal court ruled Wednesday.
A divided Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the findings of a state district judge who ruled last year that the outcome of David Mark Temple’s murder trial would have been different if a Harris County prosecutor hadn’t withheld evidence from his attorneys and had disclosed other evidence to them sooner.
The appeals court previously upheld Temple’s 2007 conviction, but his lawyers appealed again, citing the prosecutor’s withholding of evidence, among other things. After lengthy proceedings in which 30 witnesses testified and more than 200 pieces of evidence were introduced, District Judge Larry Gist ruled that Temple’s conviction should be overturned.
Five of the appeals court’s nine judges affirmed Gist’s findings, while three dissented and one didn’t participate.
Temple’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said he was "elated" by the ruling, even though it wasn’t a complete surprise, given Gist’s ruling.
"I was still concerned because it had taken so long. It’s been a year," he said.
DeGuerin said he will now try to get Temple, 48, released on bond. He said he called Temple in prison to give him the news.
"He’s extremely happy and relieved and hopeful that he can be home by at least Christmas," DeGuerin said.
Prosecutors haven’t said whether they plan to retry Temple for his wife’s killing. Neither the Harris County district attorney’s office nor the prosecutor who oversaw Temple’s trial, Kelly Siegler, responded to messages seeking comment. Siegler is now in private practice.
Prosecutors accused Temple of staging a burglary Jan. 11, 1999, at his home in the Houston suburb of Katy and fatally shooting his wife, Belinda, because he was having an affair. Belinda Temple, a high school teacher, was seven months’ pregnant.
"It was, in my opinion, a burglary by a gang of young thugs who had committed several very similar burglaries," DeGuerin said.
David Temple, who taught and coached football in a nearby district, later married the woman he’d been seeing. He wasn’t charged in the killing until five years after it happened.
The evidence contested in the appeal was hundreds of pages of police reports that Siegler believed she didn’t have to turn over to defense lawyers "if she did not believe it to be relevant, inconsistent or credible," the appeals court said, citing her testimony before Gist.
The appeals court said that was a "misconception."