Friday, July 10, 2015

Cold Justice: Years-old Brady violations by TV prosecutor revealed in habeas proceeding

Big news on the Brady front featuring Texas' premier legal TV star, from the Houston Chronicle:
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.

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.
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:
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.

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.
The Houston Press called the Temple prosecution:
a high-profile case pitting two outsized egos — Siegler and defense attorney Dick DeGuerin — against each other. ...

"Both were famous and neither could stand losing to each other," Gist wrote in his 19-page recommendation, issued Wednesday.
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.

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.


Jefe said...

As you say, Gist wrote," "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."
However, you left out that the words after "significance" were in bold and underlined. I have never seen that in an order before; at least not one castigating a prosecutor.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Good call, Jefe, FIFY.

Anonymous said...

It's a widely held belief that prosecutors, while quick to throw people in prison are themselves TERRIFIED of the same. I just hope that the fear of prison makes this lady expose other ills at the Harris County DA office.

Anonymous said...

Serial Brady violations will bring down many Harris County prosecutors. This has been a long time coming!!!

Lee said...

I thought that through the Graves episode she had turned over a new leaf....

Gritsforbreakfast said...

These events were long before Graves exoneration, Lee. To the extent she "turned over a new leaf," then these are the behaviors she would have turned from.

For my part, I suspect she was sincere on Graves and genuinely was appalled at Sebesta's behavior (who wouldn't be?). But she may have been un-reflective about her own, similar tactics in her own cases where she was just as sure she was right as Sebesta was. Several Harris Co. CDLs have said as much to me over the years - that her criticizing Sebesta was the pot calling the kettle black. Of course, the pot's not lying, it's just oblivious to the same charge being leveled against it.

11:29 from the 2012 Siegler Responds thread said...

I noticed Murray doesn't want to get into this issue by reopening the thread in his blog where I was taken to task by ADAs for doubting Siegler and suggesting ways (that turned out to be right) that Deguerin could have had an OR admitted into evidence during trial and not been aware of all the Brady that was in it. He got these documents during trial and was denied a continuance to review and follow up on the information. She tried to claim that this was not a Brady violation because he got the documents (not as soon as practicable as required). To all the ADAs who are doing exactly what she did and worse since MMA demands more from you; I hope you experience the same fate as Ms. Siegler...only sooner. The burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, not your cocksure belief that a person is guilty. You people that hide evidence raising reasonable doubt or allow LEOs to do so need to leave the practice of law and find a menial job. You ADAs who help police avoid the sanctions of the exclusionary rule are perverting the system and turning a blind eye to cops who should not be allowed anywhere near a witness stand.

All of you who have let cops claim that they are allowed to turn body cams on and off during a stop with no audible explanation before turning it off and helped them hide the training guidelines for this from the defense and juries should be ashamed of yourselves. Those documents are coming out through a good attorney issuing a subpoena to the right person, while the HPD management has fought tooth and nail to keep them secret because so many cops are turning off the cameras to hide misconduct or unlawful searches and seizures that would invoke the exclusionary rule. Why would you ADAs keep a job where you must cheat to be considered good at your job?

Anonymous said...

I am 0% surprised that Siegler is dirty but more than a little surprised that that she was called on it.

Anonymous said...

I can't testify to how respected he is or isn't, but Gist let the defense run amok at this hearing. I have a very strong feeling that his findings will not stand up on review. If it takes 26 days of testimony to prove, it probably isn't true.

George said...


If you don't know how respected Judge Gist is then how can you make such an uneducated opinion concerning him? What are basing you "very strong feelings" on exactly? Because you don't agree with the ruling? Could it be you are one of jackals who call themselves DA's or have close ties/friendships with them?

Anybody that I know who has either been through the judicial system or have taken the time to educate themselves about Texas justice knows how crooked and one-sided the whole process. You damn right the son of a bitches are squirming right now and rightly so.

Do what is right and do it to the best of your ability. Do not bring dishonor to your name or profession by cheating -- at least not on a scale such as this where you can basically ruin a citizens' life -- or worse, take it from him.

Anonymous said...

Years after she left the District Attorney's office, Sigler even asked a sheriff's deputy to confront witnesses who talked to the defense attorney. Their stories changed significantly after that.

From today's Houston Chronicle editorial:

The Homeless Cowboy said...

There is no defense for what these folks have done, Siegler was knowingly as guilty as Sebesta when she undertook his public beheading and she is in full possession of her faculties as is evidenced by her skillful and lucrative negotiations with her soon to be former tv employer. We all know how fast the TV people love to abandon their own.

It is going to take some major overhauls to get an honest Criminal Justice system in Texas, Let alone Harris County, although it is and has been the largest offender and has railroaded more people than the Union Pacific.

Anonymous said...

@11:58 I agree Harris County is hands down the MOST CORRUPT criminal justice system in these United States. That Union Pacific reference was a classic!!!

bob.bennett88 said...

THE OFFICE OF CHIEF DISCIPLINARY COUNSEL HAS OFFICIAL NOTICE OF THE DR VIOLATIONS OF TEXAS ATTORNEY KELLY SIEGLER. But also notice of all those who should have reported Siegler's violations. The failure to report a violation, is a violation. Should Seigler have self-reported or reported the DR violations of others? Should Dick DeGuerin self-reported or reported the DR violations of others? Is Judge Larry Gist required to report the DR violation?. The original Court of Appeals found numerous instances of prosecutorial misconduct but not enough to deprive Temple of a fair trial. Gist wrote: " The findings of this habeas Court enlarge and enhanced that conclusion, and magnify the determination that the defendant was denied a fair trial." If there were " 36 instances of prosecutorial misconduct" ( that is not the way I count the Opinion), why did the Judge not enter a conclusion that Prosecutorial Misconduct occurred? What about Stanley Schneider and the other attorneys who worked on the appeals and Habeas, at what point do they have a duty to report, and failure to report becomes a grievance?

Anyone remember the case of Judge Roy Richard who was a part-time lawyer, part-time muni judge. He and his 2 law partners knew that a 4th partner was engaged in illegal fee splitting but didn’t report him. The 3 partners were sanctioned as lawyers for nonreporting, and Richard was also sanctioned as a judge. There’s also a relevant judicial ethics opinion (No. 45, 1979). Based on this, Gist may have liability if he does not report Siegler, and her co-prosecutor.

On May 9, Roy W. Richard
[#16842900], 50, Steven J. Zanft
[#22251300], 53, and Peter S.
Gross [#08537000], 71, all of San
Antonio, each agreed to three-year,
fully-probated suspensions, effective
May 9.The 285th District Court of
Bexar County found that from 1992
through 1994, Richard, Zauft, and Gross were involved in a partnership
for the practice of law with a fourth
attorney. During that time, the fourth
attorney engaged in fee-splitting
arrangements with nonlawyers, made
other improper payments to certain
nonlawyers, and committed other violated
of the Texas Rules of Professional
Conduct. The court found Richard,
Zauft, and Gross knew of the misconduct,
which would raise substantial
questions regarding the fourth
attorney's honest and trustworthiness
or fitness as a lawyer in other respects,
and did not report it to the State Bar.
Richard, Zauft, and Gross violated
Rule 8.03(a). They were ordered to
pay $1,500 in attorney's fees.

On Jan. 28, the State Commission
on Judicial Conduct issued an amended
public reprimand to Roy W. Richard
[#16842900], 52, municipal court judge,
Garden Ridge, Comal County. The commission
found that by failing to report
lawyers he knew were engaged in unethical
and in some cases illegal activities,
and by participating himself in some of
these same unethical and illegal activities
while serving as a member of the judiciary, Richard failed to comply with
the law and engaged in willful conduct
that cast public discredit upon the judiciary.
He violated Article V, Section 1-
a(6)A of the Texas Constitution and
Canons 2A and 3D(2) of the Texas Code
of Judicial Conduct.


( you almost have to be an attorney to figure this stuff out!)

Anonymous said...

Over the years I have noticed something. When a person does whatever evil it takes to convict, slander, hurt, or destroy someone, sometimes it later surfaces that they had a strikingly similar dark secret they are trying to distance themselves from. It is like screaming don't look at me, look at the horrible person over there. They artificially raise themselves above suspicion to keep prying eyes away.

Case in point: Kelly Siegler
Case in point: Ken Anderson

I wonder at times if other overzealous people in power, politicians, prosecutors, judges, and juries do the same blame-deflection for some of their own dark secrets, especially in sex offense cases.

Case in point: Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski’s crime of Sexual Battery. He was the he officer in charge of the U.S. Air Force’s response to sexual assault.

Case in point: New York tough-on-crime parole board commissioner Chris Ortloff sentenced to 150 months for child sex charges.

I could go on and on but you know them all. Rarely does any of this go anywhere due to corruption, cronyism, and the evilest thing in our judicial and legislative system, immunity.

George said...

@ Anonymous 11:17PM,

I believe you are on point. The old country saying relating to this form of behavior is "The guilty dog barks loudest".

Another case in point is what's happening with former US Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. He was instrumental in getting the Adam Walsh Act pushed through. His buddy Foley who was messing around with underaged congressional pages was standing on the capitol steps when that piece of legislation was signed into law.

So far none of them have faced the wrath of the laws that they helped push through to satisfy certain advocacy groups and appear to be tough and to "protect the children".

It is disgusting to see what it going on in this great nation of ours. The sad thing about it is that we only have ourselves to blame. The good thing is that at least right now we have the potential ability to correct things.

However, just talking won't get a damn thing done, instead it will take action. Call your state and federal representatives and let them know that you do not condone what is going on and that you fully expect them to do their jobs with high moral and ethical standards. Be specific about the various issues. Finally, exercise your right to vote --- all Americans should view voting as a duty and to fulfill that duty at every opportunity. The bastards in office have gotten used to such low voter turnouts -- shake things up and start voting -- at least at this point this is the single biggest weapon we have to change things.

Politicians like Kelly Siegler should not be able to get away with what she has done. This happens over and over and over again. Powerful people break the law to get ahead, accumulate wealth and then the shit hits the fan decide to resign or attempt to pull strings to quietly fade to such places as Palau for instance. They should be held to a much higher standard than the people who elect them into office period.

john said...

I am impressed SO MANY of you commented. Insiders may be the only thing that can can really clean it up.
I wonder that a big "star" of the court system has to cheat and lie to become a star. Is there no one honest with integrity remaining, except this silent majority?
That's what happened through history---the silent majority allows the few arrogant steroid folks to rape and pillage until it's too late. The high-school bullies who are allowed to grow worse, do just that. Sociopaths float.
If the silent & "anonymous" majority cannot step forward, change fades. Often, it takes ignorant kids to utilize their angst, to overcome opposition. And dirty "leaders" make big use of their willingness to be henchmen; their ignorance of facts & history makes them easily manipulable.
Those in power will do anything to keep it that way. That's why they change the very laws--and of course the implementation, and now Electronic Voting Machines--to protect themselves. Immunity--like the foreign turds in the U.N. in NY. No pervert wants to be exposed; no tyrant wants to be held accountable. Folks very rarely want to give up anything they acquired, no matter how they got it.
HOW CAN THEY UNLAWFUL BASTARDS BE STOPPED? The Bar Ass. is the illegitimate ruler, buy anyone getting paid won't interfere? So, cronyism.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
I can't testify to how respected he is or isn't, but Gist let the defense run amok at this hearing. I have a very strong feeling that his findings will not stand up on review. If it takes 26 days of testimony to prove, it probably isn't true.

7/10/2015 10:17:00 PM

According to the State Bar of Texas, Judge Gist has been a licensed attorney for 49 years and is Board Certified in both Criminal Law and Criminal Appellate law. Any chance he understands the law and rules of evidence better than you? As to the 26 days, it seems like the hearing was uncovering 1.38 examples of prosecutorial misconduct a day.

Anonymous said...

Since bad cops recently blamed their ignorance of the laws on bad and/or lack of training - who trained & mentored KELLY SIEGLER?

Anonymous said...

It's not just Harris County...Tarrant County is pretty sick too

Anonymous said...

I noticed Murray doesn't want to get into this issue by reopening the thread in his blog

5:09, that's because he is a former ADA and they are buddies. Check out the way he promoted her A&E show in his archives and you'll literally see him begging for a shout-out. What's wrong with former ADAs pretending to be CDLs while defending and excusing former ADAs criminal conduct? Nothing, unless you just happen to be one of their victims or become one of their clients.

Anonymous said...

What is taking the CCA so long to rule on this writ? This election should be a referendum on Devon Anderson as well for protecting Kelly Siegler. With what was withheld in the Temple case he should have been released on bond instead of rotting in prison while the CCA looks for a way to save this wrongful conviction. Which of these "justices" are going to step up and make justice prevail. We are getting close to a year and a half since Siegler was found to have withheld Brady. Grant the damn writ, don't stall until after the election you cowards.