I started working on the Belinda Temple murder case for 48 Hours in 2004, just after her husband, David, was arrested. Our show will finally air tomorrow night at 10 p.m. EST on CBS.
The case (and our show, by default) took years to unravel. And this is one of those cases where questions may always linger for some. Many think they know exactly who killed Belinda Temple and why. Her husband, David, was having an affair with another woman, a fellow teacher, at the time of Belinda’s death. Kelly Siegler, also a WCI blogger, prosecuted the case. She is certain of David Temple’s guilt, as are the police, who investigated the case tirelessly for six years before the arrest.
But others – including his family and his defense attorney Dick DeGuerin – are equally and vehemently as sure that Temple is an innocent man. And they point to another man who they say is the real killer.
Our show and the web site give far more details on the case and how it unfolded. But what you won’t see on either of those is how the story process took place. At 48 Hours, we try to follow a story from as close to the beginning as we can get … until it has at least some sort of an ending. (Some stories continue to re-invent themselves. For example, I’m working on a brand new show about a case we followed five years ago – the case of Susan Wright, who was convicted and sentenced to 25 years for stabbing her husband 193 times. Kelly prosecuted that one, too.)
For the Temple story, I did the usual work at the beginning – I called the lawyers on both sides and met with them. We discussed whether they would be able to work with us – and I assured them that nothing would air until after his murder trial was complete. I don’t think anyone at that point knew how long it would take to get to that point. Because of a myriad of unforeseen delays, it ended up taking three years from the time of the arrest until Temple was tried.
Once the trial started, I sat through every day of it. I listened to testimony, took notes, talked to the lawyers on each side about how it was going – and occasionally filmed short interviews so that we could later keep our viewers posted on how this high profile murder trial was unfolding.
The trial was interesting, dramatic and tense. I literally had no idea what the verdict would be when the jury filed out to deliberate – and, generally, you have a pretty good idea of what the likely outcome is. In this case, it was a hard-fought case on both sides. The lawyers – who have a history of butting heads in the courtroom – were both especially devoted to this case.
The jury came back with a guilty verdict – our show will give you a better idea of how it happened. But once that verdict was announced, my real work began. We had filmed, along with every local news station in Houston, the closing arguments and verdict in the case. But we didn’t yet have a story, much less a full hour of television. My job was to get the main characters – notably David Temple – on camera to tell this story.
It is rarely easy to convince a defendant in a murder trial to sit down for a full interview. It becomes even more difficult when that person is convicted and about to head off to prison. The rules in Texas prisons regarding on-camera interviews make it nearly impossible to get a real, in-depth, nice looking interview.
So I had a very short window of opportunity to try to convince David Temple to speak to us before he was transferred to the prison system. He had been taken to the Harris County Jail as soon as he was convicted – and that’s where he would stay until the prison system came to get him. The problem is no one (not even the jail) has much warning as to when this transfer will happen.
On the day of Temple’s motion for a new trial (which was denied by the trial judge, which is pretty standard), his attorney finally told me he would allow Temple to interview with us. I was elated. This would allow us to tell this story – it’s difficult to tell a person’s story if that person chooses not to participate.
My elation quickly turned to a sort of panic. The word was that Temple was likely to be transferred to prison within a day or two now that the motion for new trial had been heard and turned down. So I had to hustle. I immediately called our senior producer – and the correspondent on the case, Richard Schlesinger, and told them the plan. Richard hopped on a plane and headed to Houston – in the hopes that we would make this happen.
I started calling the jail – and booking two crews to come to Houston to be ready to film. After several phone calls and faxes (many of them pleading), the jail said yes. They would allow us inside to interview David Temple.
Our next goal was to make the jail look like anything but a jail. And to make Temple look like anything but an inmate. If the viewers saw him right off the top in a jail uniform, they would assume he’d been convicted – and there would be much less mystery in the show. The typical colors of inmate uniforms are bright orange (not flattering on anyone) and black and white stripes.
I breathed a slight sigh of relief when Temple walked into the room (set with three cameras and at least a dozen lights) in a yellow jumpsuit. We shot the interview as tightly as possible – so you see primarily his face – and hoped everything would come off without a hitch.
David Temple tells a compelling tale of how his life has unfolded. The attorneys on both sides are the best at what they each do. You’ve gotten a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes workings that make a show like this come together. Now I hope you’ll turn to CBS at 10 p.m. EST tomorrow (Saturday) night to see how the actual case takes incredible turns throughout the hour. And I have a feeling this one may not be completely over.