Friday, December 5, 2008

A Look Behind the Camera

by Jenna Jackson

In January, it will have been 10 years since someone took the life of Belinda Temple (pictured left) and her unborn little girl, Erin, by putting a shotgun to the back of her head and firing. For nearly all of that time, it has been a tale with twists, turns and surprises – and, some feel, still a lot of questions.

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.


Kathryn Casey said...

Since I'm writing a book on Belinda Temple's murder, I can vouch for the fact that this is an amazing case. Belinda's and Erin's murders were so tragic, a terrible waste and truly heart-breaking. Adding to the suspense, the investigation and trial were full of unpredictable twists.

I'm looking forward to the program, Jenna. I'll be glued to the television on Saturday night watching 48 Hours.

andy kahan said...


Thanks for posting Belinda's picture as opposed to her convicted husband's photo.

I am looking forward to seeing
your usual objective journalistic
talents shine tomorrow night.

A Voice of Sanity said...

Was there any actual evidence against the husband? I can't find a news report that lists any at all.

Sibby said...

I will be looking for the show tonight. Kathryn, I am sure you will do a superb job on your book.

Dick DeGuerin is quite the busy guy, isn't he? I have seen his name in a few of the true crime books I have read. His client list is a who's who of true criminals.

Sibby said...

Just finished watching the show. Makes me really look forward to Kathryn's book because the show left so many questions unanswered for me.

Kelly, you looked great, and didn't let the reported box you into a corner. Good for you.

A Voice of Sanity said...

Once more a win-at-any-cost prosecutor has convicted the wrong person. Finding the mother's body in the closet is a giant red flag that it was not the husband. If this was a murder by the husband she would not have had any reason to retreat to the closet - the 'safe room' (such as it was) of the house. This was a murder by someone else - a stranger in the house, if not to her.

FleaStiff said...

Red Flag? Well, I too think that while it is not absolutely determinative that hiding in the closet is something a woman does when she hears an intruder and can't get to a weapon or the telephone. Ofcourse, this was Texas so there should have been weapons available and if it was a bedroom closet, then what about the bedroom phone?

Was there a time range during which the killing had to have been completed?

A Voice of Sanity said...

It is hard to conceive of a reason she would be found murdered in the closet if her husband was the guilty party. I can't recall any similar case - those I do recall were all stranger murders, although some were hits paid for by the husband. I certainly wouldn't convict a petty thief on such 'evidence' as this.

Sibby said...

So you don't think she may have been in the closet to call someone because she didn't want her husband to hear her? I have done just that...go into the closet to make a phone call so family members don't overhear me.

While the show last night didn't answer questions for me, I still wouldn't brand this a win at any costs case simply because I haven't seen or heard all the evidence.

I am definitely reserving my full opinion until I have read Kathryn's book.

Kathryn Casey said...

Thanks, Sibby. I'm hard at work on the book now. It'll be out next year!

Jan said...

48 Hours presented as much information as an hour format allowed. I came away from the show doubting David's guilt, but feeling there must be more, a lot more, to the story.

Kelly Siegler is one helluva prosecutor and she took a huge chance taking this case to court. If she lost, then David was home free. I would bet that's why no one else was willing to try this case. I respect and admire her courage and tenacity.

I don't see any significance to Belinda being found in the closet. Maybe she was going to change her clothes. Or she needed something from her purse. Or she wanted her favorite slippers or socks. Or she was putting her dirty laundry in the hamper. That part of the crime wasn't a problem. However, the neighbor boy who lied about being at school and who also flunked the lie detector test, that part DID bother me. A lot.

I'm looking forward to Kathryn Casey's book for a more indepth look at this complicated crime.

FleaStiff said...

I do not know about the boy's lies or his polygraphy results. Its not uncommon to encounter people who lie during an investigation and its not uncommon for polygraph results to be 'inconclusive' or 'deceptive'. It doesn't equate to automatic guilt, but it raises some doubts. Simple burglary? A youth caught in the home who strikes out rather than face the consequences? I've no idea. Most burglars want to escape rather than make things worse with a murder charge. A hit? A husband?
Yeah. Get that book published.

Anonymous said...

This is another case of a wife being shot to death in the bedroom closet...apparently her husband slept through the gunshot (claims he was sleeping in a bed 15 feet away) she shot herself.

Anonymous said...

i met daivd temple and he is quite capable of what he is convicted!what most of you dont know is about the conversation belinds had with her twin sister after david had gone hunting[the football banquet which he took heater instead of hunting. yes they got the right man

Anonymous said...

It makes my head spin to realize that the producer and “star” of an “unbiased” television docudrama both participate in the same blog. During Ms. Siegler’s run for Harris County District Attorney, one of her greatest supporters, financial and otherwise, was Ms. Jackson. Please see (Ms. Jenna Jackson, 3.24.08, $200.00; 3.24.08, $550.00). I find it amazing that Mr. DeGuerin even agreed to participate in this charade.

Ironically, the piece, to me, was a hatchet job against Ms. Siegler. Most of the excellent circumstantial evidence against Mr. Temple was ignored and Ms. Siegler’s appearance was extremely unflattering. Beyond this blog, the Temple docudrama was an affront to the memory of Belinda Temple. By not telling the TRUE story and giving the entire picture, the life of this young woman was tainted and disrespected.

The case is not about Ms. Siegler or Mr. DeGuerin. It is about the life of a young woman who was senselessly destroyed. Like her or not, Ms. Siegler actively investigated this case and believed in her heart that Mr. Temple murdered his wife. A jury of Mr. Temple’s peers agreed. If not for Ms. Siegler, Belinda’s family would have no opportunity for closure.

I find Mr. Kahan’s comment extremely ignorant. This man claims to advocate for crime victims; however, his verbiage and actions consistently undermine the work of prosecutors. I wish this man would cooperate with prosecutors on the front-end rather than undermining their decision-making after the fact. The latest example of this conduct is Mr. Kahan’s response to the murder of Officer Abernethy. Instead of focusing on the bad conduct of the criminal, Mr. Kahan uses this opportunity to criticize the prosecutors involved in the criminal’s past. This behavior is both obstructive and inane.

andy kahan said...

In reply to 'Anonymous': Fact Check for you,I succinctly stated that the person who 'allegedly' murdered Officer Abernathy was a career habitual criminal. The 'perp' managed to rack up 10 convictions-5 Felony's of which 3 were reduced to misdemeanors and even on the 2 he was convicted of he was sentenced both times to only 2 years. While out on Parole he was arrested for Felony DWI and his sentence was lumped in with his previous 2 year conviction for dealing drugs.
The Parole Board denied him Parole in May 2008 only to release him on Discretionary Mandatory one month later.

Officer's Abernathy death was a senseless tragedy that was preventable by our criminal justice system. Feel free to stand up for both the Parole Board and the Prosecutors that cut him deal after deal only to repeatedly see him re-offend.

At least I use my real name when I take stand instead of hiding behing 'Anonymous'

Bobby in Katy said...

Anonymous 8:23

You might think about letting your head to stop spinning before commenting.

First you suggest that Jenna Jackson is biased toward Kelly Siegler because she supporrted Seigler in her run for DA........then you turn around and say that Jackson did a "hatchet job" on Siegler.........You might call it ironic............but others read it as proof of Jackson's objectivity..............There goes your bias right out the window.

And if the show were so "unflattering" to the prosecutor.................and most of the circumstantial evidence against David Temple was ignored as you say..................then why do you find it "amazing" that Temple's attorney agreed to participate in the program? For anybody reading your comments, that lawyers decision seems smart.

Your head really is spinning. Get it together. You must have some dog in this hunt? Why don't you have the nads to identify yourself so we can dig up your contributions. Coward.

Eyes said...

Someone on my blog alerted me to this website! I love it!! And I enjoyed hearing about this case from the inside. Thanks for a great post and website.