Temple sentenced to life for pregnant wife's murder

DeGuerin, who will request new trial, doesn't regret putting his client on stand

Nov. 20, 2007, 12:48AM

Despite defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin's insistence that his client is
innocent, jurors on Monday sentenced David Mark Temple to life in
prison for killing his pregnant wife, Belinda Tracie Temple, in 1999.

Prosecutor Kelly Siegler had asked for a life sentence for a man she
said was "heartless" and "selfish" enough to take away his son's
mother. The couple's son was 3 when Belinda was shot to death.

"You realized that he really was guilty of killing his own wife
while his own baby's heart was beating inside her body," Siegler told
jurors. "He's capable of doing that. Why does he not deserve the most
punishment we can give him — a life sentence?"

Temple, 39, was eligible for a penalty range that included probation.

In the sentencing phase of the trial, prosecution witnesses
testified that Temple had a reputation for violence in the Katy
community. Witnesses included a high school girlfriend, a cousin and
Katy Police Chief Robert Frazier.

"He's had a bad reputation for a long time, to be honest," Frazier said.

Defense witnesses, including relatives, church members and an Alief
schools deputy superintendent, described Temple as a devoted father,
family man, teacher and coach.

The life sentence, announced after about 80 minutes of deliberation, brought no obvious reaction from Temple.

The five-week-long trial ended in a battle of wills.

In their last joint act, the seven men and five women returned to
the jury box and sat quietly as the foreman read a brief statement that
included the phrase: "We stand by our verdict."

Late Monday, DeGuerin said the jury's actions have made a bad situation worse.

"They are wrong. They based their guilty verdict on emotion and not
evidence and I will say that until the cows come home. We will appeal
this case. I will never give up," the defense lawyer said. "I think
this is a tragedy for both of the families. The Lucas family: They are
denied justice because the wrong man has been convicted. That means
that the Sheriff's Office will quit looking (for the killer). ... Their
grandson, Evan, is denied his father. It's as if the tragedy that is
the murder of Belinda has been compounded."

 

What the jurors said

None of the jurors reached at home
late Monday would comment on the case, but lawyers on both sides shared
what jurors told them.

Siegler said the jury was particularly influenced by the testimony
of one of Temple's high-school classmates who said that he saw Temple
on the day of the murder driving around near the Temple family property
— a location the former high school football coach said he wasn't at
that day.

DeGuerin said jurors told him that Temple and his relatives were
poor witnesses. He blamed what he called Siegler's use of depositions
from the Temple family as a "game of gotcha" to make them look
untruthful. Still, DeGuerin said he doesn't regret allowing his client
to testify.

"I think he made a very good witness, but what the jurors told me
was that they based their verdict on the fact that David Temple and his
family seemed like they were lying — but not a thing that they said put
a gun in David's hand."

 

Exploiting seeds of doubt

Legal experts were hesitant to
criticize DeGuerin for his unconventional argument during the
punishment phase, when he told the jury they were wrong to convict
Temple.

"You're dealing with the concept of residual doubt," said South
Texas College of Law professor Adam Gershowitz. "Essentially, you're
telling jurors that maybe you should give him a lighter sentence to
compensate for the doubt."

DeGuerin also defied common practice in allowing Temple to testify in his own defense.

"If a jury does not believe a testifying defendant, it doesn't
matter what the rest of the evidence shows," said veteran defense
attorney Jack Zimmermann.

Temple's parents and brothers showed little emotion after the
sentence was announced. Their reaction was in stark contrast to visible
shaking and a collapse last week when Temple was found guilty. Temple
nodded to his family as he was led away. His wife, Heather, was not in
court when the sentence was announced.

Without commenting to reporters, the Temples walked briskly down the courthouse steps and jumped into a sport utility vehicle.

Belinda's relatives made brief statements. Her older brother, Brian
Lucas, thanked the jurors, prosecutors and detectives who worked on the
case. He said his family now has closure, but will not forget Belinda
or Temple's crime — and they will never forgive him.

Visiting State District Judge Doug Shaver agreed Monday to hear
DeGuerin's arguments in January in support of a new trial. Until then,
Temple will remain in the Harris County jail. If the life sentence
stands, he will be eligible for parole in 30 years.

 

No misconduct

Earlier Monday, the judge ruled there was no
juror misconduct after hearing testimony from a Houston Chronicle
reader who suggested on the newspaper's Web site last week that a juror
inappropriately spoke with people outside the jury room about
deliberations.

The reader, Robert Fleming, used the screen name "REFster" to post a
remark in the "reader comments" section about 9 a.m. Thursday, seven
hours before the jury returned its guilty verdict.

"Psst ... My boss is on the jury. Thinks they'll have a verdict this afternoon," Fleming wrote, using the pseudonym.

Jurors are forbidden from discussing the case with anyone outside
the jury room while the trial is still in progress. Attorneys for
Temple on Friday issued a subpoena to the Houston Chronicle seeking
information to help them identify the reader. The Chronicle did not
release the identity of REFster.

"We showed up this morning and all of a sudden he was there with a lawyer," DeGuerin said late Monday.

Fleming, who works at CenterPoint Energy, testified that his boss
did not say which jury he was serving on or discuss anything about
deliberations. He said he surmised his boss was serving on the Temple
jury because of the length of time the boss was out of the office.

Fleming said he stopped by his boss' office between 8:15 a.m. and
8:30 a.m. last Thursday. "I asked him how long he would be going
through the deliberations," Fleming said.

His boss told him the jury could be through that day, he said,
although he did not specifically reference the Temple trial. That was
their only conversation about the trial, Fleming said. His comment on
Chron.com was based on his assumptions, he said.

Chronicle reporters Mike Tolson and Dale Lezon contributed to this report.

Go to article