LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - In a unanimous decision, justices with Texas' 14th Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the 2007 murder conviction of David Temple, a former high school football coach and SFA football player.
Temple, who was given a life sentence in November 2007, will remain in prison for the January 1999 shooting death of his pregnant wife, Belinda Temple.
The judges disagreed with Temple's lawyers, who asked for a new trial based on their claim that a new witness had stepped forward and was willing to say that someone else shot Belinda Temple in the back of the head with a 12-gauge shotgun.
In September, Temple's attorney filed a motion that claimed a witness identified only as "John Doe" heard an alternate suspect admit to burglarizing the couple's home in Katy and firing a shotgun.
"Therefore, we hold that the evidence was sufficient to support the Appellant's conviction for murder," the court's opinion stated. "The jury was rationally justified in finding Appellant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We affirm the judgment of the court of appeals."
The opinion said there were both motive and opportunity in the case, and even though the evidence were "not sufficient to prove identity, they are circumstances indicative of guilt."
According to court documents, Temple's lawyers asserted that the evidence presented by the state was circumstantial at best. They also argued that it was "absurd" for jurors to believe that Temple was able to stage a break-in, commit murder, dispose of the clothing he was wearing and the shotgun, and care for his son within an 18-minute period.
However, the appeals court agreed with the state's testimony. During the jury trial, several witnesses talked about David Temple's dark side, testifying that he was controlling and often made insulting comments to and about his wife. He allegedly called her "fat" and "ugly" and tried to keep Belinda Temple from spending time with her extended family.
In addition, witnesses testified that David Temple went to his high school reunion during the summer of 1998, and on the first night, met a woman that he once dated. Quintin Harlan, David Temple's friend and fellow coach, said David Temple and the woman kissed and when he asked his friend if they had sex, the former SFA football player said, "No, everything but that."
At the trial, testimony also revealed that David Temple started a three-month sexual relationship with a woman named Heather Scott in the fall of 1998. After telling his wife that he was going hunting, David Temple allegedly spent the weekend of New Year's Eve with Scott. At one point, Quintin Harlan asked his friend if he was willing to leave Belinda Temple for Scott, and David Temple replied, "I don't know."
David Temple and Scott were engaged in January of 2001, and they got married on June 9, 2001.
The opinion also stated that "evidence also supported Appellant's opportunity to commit the crime." Based on evidence gathered by the police, authorities believe Belinda Temple died sometime between 3:30 and 5:30 on the day of her murder.
During the jury trial, the state pointed to inconsistencies in the timing of David Temple's accounts of what happened that day, leaving gaps in time that could have been enough to commit the crime and attempt to cover it up. For instance, witnesses were unable to place David Temple at the park he claimed to have taken his son to before he returned to their Katy home and found his wife dead in a closet in their master bedroom.
The state also presented evidence that supported the claim that the burglary at David Temple's house had been staged. When police officers arrived at the scene, they found the television on the floor. However, it was still plugged in, and it worked when officers turned it on.
Several drawers of the buffet were open, but nothing was missing. Belinda Temple's keys were found on the stairs, and her purse was found in a downstairs closet with nothing missing from it. Plus, the jewelry boxes and jewelry on top of the dresser in the bedroom appeared undisturbed.
In addition, David Temple's wife was still wearing a watch, a bracelet, a necklace and rings on both hands when her body was discovered. Later, David Temple filed an insurance claim for several pieces of missing jewelry, but law enforcement officers testified that they didn't learn of the missing items until they saw a news report on television.
The state also called the timing of the alleged burglary into question in light of the fact that the Temples' home was on a corner lot and the burglary allegedly took place during a time of day when people normally returned home from work and school. Plus, witnesses did not hear the Temples' "loud, aggressive" dog barking at that time, and a pair of brothers that lived nearby were the only ones that reported hearing anything that could have been a gunshot.
David Temple's demeanor after the murder was also suspicious, according to the state. Witnesses said he was calm and matter-of-fact after he discovered his wife's body and did not cry. During his interview with detectives, he became irritated and aggressive, avoided eye contact, and would "shake and bounce" in his chair.
Later in the trial, David Temple's friends, Quintin and Tammy Harlan testified that he confronted and threatened them on several occasions. He warned Quintin Harlan to keep his mouth shut. At one point, David Temple followed Tammy Harlan to her place of business, and only stopped when she ran inside with her gun.
The jury also heard testimony about how David Temple and his brothers grew up shooting shotguns. Even though David Temple said he only used a 20-gauge, a witness testified that he saw him and his brothers use 12-gauge shotguns. Quintin Harlan testified that David Temple talked to him about guns and looked for gun ads in the newspaper. Witnesses also said they saw David Temple with a box of shotgun shells after the murder.
At the time of the crime, Temple told law enforcement officials that he had found his wife's body that morning, along with a broken window. However, authorities gathered enough evidence to arrest him on murder charges in 2004.