A Beaumont judge who decided that David Mark Temple deserves a new trial in the 1999 slaying of his pregnant wife cited 36 instances of prosecutorial misconduct in his ruling, most of which are tied to legendary former Harris County prosecutor Kelly Siegler.Ironically, Siegler was the chief accuser against Charles Sebesta, the prosecutor in the Anthony Graves case who was recently disbarred for withholding exculpatory evidence. Meanwhile, Judge Gist is highly respected around the state, chair of the Judicial Advisory Council, and a Rick Perry appointee to the board at TDCJ. Him accusing Siegler brings every bit as much credibility to the accusations as did her accusing Charles Sebesta, who somewhere must be grinning from ear to ear at the news. Another Chronicle article declared:
Because evidence that could have helped his defense was withheld — before, during and after Temple's 2007 trial — attorneys for the Katy man showed that he was denied a fair trial, according to the ruling by state District Judge Larry Gist.
The ruling was a staggering blow to Siegler, a long-time darling of Houston's legal scene and role model for Harris County's prosecutors who won dozens of convictions in her 21-year career. After leaving the district attorney's office in 2008, she worked as a special prosecutor in neighboring counties and made headlines two years later by accusing a rural district attorney of prosecutorial misconduct in a death penalty case.The Houston Press called the Temple prosecution:
In recent years, Siegler has garnered a celebrity status, starring in "Cold Justice," a nationally televised show in which she helps small law enforcement agencies across the country secure indictments in cold cases.
a high-profile case pitting two outsized egos — Siegler and defense attorney Dick DeGuerin — against each other. ...Here's a copy of Judge Gist's 19-page findings of fact and conclusions of law, which is worth reading in its entirety. There were several money quotes from the ruling, but this one's a doozy: "Of enormous significance was the prosecutor's testimony at the habeas hearing that apparently favorable evidence did not need to be disclosed if the State did not believe it was true." (Emphasis in original.) Before passage of the Michael Morton Act, this was actually a fairly common contention among Texas prosecutors, at least of the more aggressive sort. I bet there are quite a few who see Siegler dinged over that policy and whose palms begin to sweat. She was not alone in that contention back in the day.
"Both were famous and neither could stand losing to each other," Gist wrote in his 19-page recommendation, issued Wednesday.
Another trial trick Siegler couldn't have gotten away with under the Michael Morton Act: "The Prosecutor also testified that although a large number of investigators were involved, she only elected to call a small number because she did not want the defense lawyer to have access to their offense reports. At the time of this trial, the State was only obligated to provide offense reports after a law enforcement officer had testified." Today, all those records would be required to be revealed to the defense in advance of a trial.
Gist specifically found that Siegler misled the trial court. A Det. Shipley omitted favorable information from her offense reports when paraphrasing audio recordings, and "The main prosecutor denied ever having seen or listened to these audio recordings when in fact she was aware of them and had listened to them." Further, at a discovery hearing Siegler represented to the court there was no exculpatory evidence to reveal when in fact a woman had called police to say her husband may be the murderer, a fact not disclosed till just before trial.
And here's a bit that may put Siegler's own law license at risk: "After conviction, the State's main prosecutor instructed law enforcement and District Attorney Officials not to disclose records pursuant to an Open Records Request. Disclosure was only made after these writ proceedings were initiated." That means the statute of limitations on state bar disciplinary proceedings didn't begin to toll until the violations were disclosed in Judge Gist's court.
One of West's attorneys, Paul Looney, speculated to the Houston Press that Siegler would lose her law license over the episode and potentially face prosecution: "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."
After Siegler signed off on Anthony Graves' innocence findings as a special prosecutor, Grits emailed her congratulations, quoting Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Michael Keasler declaring that, in order to remain ethical, an attorney must be willing to lose. Clearly, though, Siegler herself wasn't immune to a win-at-all-costs mentality.
MORE: Lisa Falkenberg says "good prosecutors don't have to cheat to win." RELATED: In a timely coincidence, Charles Sebesta has appealed his own disbarment for concealing exculpatory evidence in the Anthony Graves case.