David Temple, the innocent man Kelly Siegler finally convicted, may finally get a new trial. In his 19-page findings of fact, Judge Gist notes at least 36 instances of prosecutorial misconduct; he paints a picture of a prosecutor willing to win at any cost and failing to follow her duty to disclose, or timely disclose, evidence favorable to the defense. Siegler, he notes, testified she didn’t need to turn over the evidence because she didn’t believe it was true.
The prosecutor’s personal belief in the truth of the favorable evidence can never be the benchmark for what prosecutors must disclose. Almost always, the Brady information which must be disclosed will be contrary to the prosecutor’s case or at least at issue with a portion of their case. But that’s exactly why it must be disclosed; defense attorneys are entitled to explore and investigate that information which may tend to exculpate their client. Defense attorneys are entitled to information which could harm the prosecutor’s case or cast doubt upon their witnesses. That’s been the law for decades. Certainly, if a prosecutor were to believe the information, her duty would be not only to disclose the information but also to dismiss the prosecution.
HCCLA in the news criticizing ex-prosecutor Kelly Siegler’s conduct in the David Temple murder case (excerpts here):
Gist made his findings after a 10-week hearing that began in December, in which attorneys Stanley Schneider and Casie Gotro questioned prosecutors, investigators and defense attorneys about what happened throughout the murder trial. The two took over Temple’s appeal from DeGuerin.
“The evidence supports the findings,” Schneider said. “I feel relieved. The next step is getting David a new trial.”
Commenting on Siegler’s conduct outlined in the judicial findings, trial attorney dick DeGuerin is quoted:
“I think it’s bad, and I think she ought to be held accountable,” Dick DeGuerin said. “But I’m going to let someone else decide that.”
On behalf of HCCLA,
JoAnne Musick, president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, said Gist’s findings show “egregious” conduct.
The organization of defense attorneys is reviewing transcripts of the hearing to determine if a grievance should be filed.
“Whether it’s Morton or Graves or whoever, we see prosecutors who want to win, so they don’t want to disclose everything,” Musick said. “If they’re hiding things or playing games, that’s not upholding their duty to do justice. That’s trying to win.”
One of Temple’s attorneys who spent days questioning Siegler blasted the former prosecutor:
“Charles Sebesta was just disbarred for this same kind of conduct,” said Casie Gotro. “Dick DeGuerin stood on the courthouse steps and told the world Kelly Siegler had finally convicted an innocent man. These findings reveal exactly how she did it.”
This is certainly one story that will continue as Judge Gists’ findings are forwarded to the Court of Criminal Appeals for review.
The Houston Press is following this story as well, read more (excerpts here):
Prosecutors “intentionally, deliberately, or negligently failed to disclose” investigators’ reports and witness statements that pointed to other suspects, but Siegler continued the suppression even following the conviction, according to the findings.
Siegler testified in the habeas hearing that potential exculpatory evidence didn’t need to be disclosed if prosecutors “did not believe it was true,” according to the findings.
Gist also wrote that Siegler influenced post-trial maneuvers by telling police and officials within the DA’s Office not to disclose public records if they were requested. The findings also state that Siegler continued to pull strings even after leaving the DA’s Office in 2008, after 21 years, by getting an alleged witness who approached DeGuerin after the trial to change his story.
In that situation, Daniel Glasscock gave DeGuerin a sworn statement that he overheard another man implicate himself in the murder. Glasscock passed a polygraph administered by the DA’s Office and also gave the same story to a DA’s investigator.
But Siegler “asked” a Harris County Sheriff’s deputy — who was involved with the trial investigation — to contact Glassock and another witness “before they could be contacted by the Special Prosecutor [in the habeas investigation] or current members of the District Attorney’s Office. The Deputy did so and afterwards, their stories were significantly different than the original version,” according to the finding.
“In substance, Glasscock repudiated the most important details to the extent that his future credibility as a witness is significantly impaired,” Gist wrote.
Houston attorney Paul Looney, who worked on Temple’s case before DeGuerin took over, told theHouston Press that Siegler’s ultimate goal was to use the case as leverage to get her own TV reality series — an idea she had unsuccessfully pitched once before.
Siegler then asked to take over the Temple case, which had been languishing for years because the original grand jury chose not to indict.
“This was her opportunity to enhance her resume to the point where she would get her TV show,” Looney said. “It worked, she got the show (“Cold Justice” on TNT). But boy, at what a price. At the price of David Temple’s life, at the price of an entire family’s reputation, and at the price of her own integrity.”
As for Siegler’s impression of exculpatory evidence, Looney said, “If Kelly’s bizarre interpretation of that rule were ever to be the law, then all a prosecutor would ever have to do to keep any witness statement away from the defense is say, ‘Well, I didn’t believe it, so I didn’t give it to the defense.’ That’s never been the law, it would totally eliminate law, but she just boldly stated it — and the only thing I can figure is she’s trying to find some arguable basis to try to defend her law license from the ultimate scrutiny of the State Bar of Texas, which undoubtedly is going to happen over this case.”
But Looney alleged that Siegler not only violated professional ethical standards, but that she committed a felony by obstructing justice.
“If Kelly Siegler’s a lawyer in five years, I’ll be shocked,” Looney said. “And if she’s not a felon in five years, it’ll be because [District Attorney] Devon Anderson decided to protect her own friend.”
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Lisa Falkenberg hits the nail on the head with her column: Judge is Right: Prosecutor Didn’t Live Up to Her Duty
The prosecutor’s duty is to seek justice, not win at all costs. Her “ego” wouldn’t let her lose this cold case. Cited twice now, once by the appellate court and now by the habeas judge, Kelly’s conduct is egregious and intentional as she hid evidence, failed to disclose evidence, and lied to the court about the evidence.