LARGO — Robert Glenn Temple got his first real chance to act as his own attorney Tuesday, but a judge kept reprimanding him for not behaving like one.
Temple, 61, delivered a rambling opening statement in his murder trial and denied killing his wife, Rosemary Christensen, in 1999. He also began cross-examining the first witnesses in the case.
Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Philip J. Federico said the case would be moving along more quickly "if 80 percent of your questions weren't inappropriate." If a lawyer persisted in asking such questions, Federico said, "the lawyer would be in contempt, the lawyer would be leaving in handcuffs."
He warned Temple late Tuesday that "if you continue to ask inappropriate questions, I'm going to cut you off." Prosecutors objected that he was asking questions that called for speculation, questions that already had been answered and questions that were irrelevant.
"Can I get a word in edgewise, please?" Federico said at one point, while Temple cross-examined a witness.
Temple had just asked a witness how she could be so sure his wife was not the "swinger" he made her out to be. But then Temple got off-track by asking the witness if she commonly shares personal information with co-workers.
Federico, in a typical ruling for the day, agreed with prosecutors who objected that the question was irrelevant.
Christensen went missing in 1999 and no body was found. But in 2008, his girlfriend, Lesley Stewart, came forward to police and said Temple had stabbed Christensen to death. Stewart also said Temple got her to help dispose of the body. She led detectives to the body, and Temple was charged with murder.
On Tuesday, Temple said in his opening statement that it was Stewart, and not him, who killed his wife in 1999. He also blamed authorities for making a big mistake that has put him on trial.
The state erred, he said, by believing his girlfriend in 2008. But he said they couldn't switch gears because by that time, he claimed, they already had offered Stewart immunity.
The state "realized they had made a bad error … and they had to start working backward to prove the case," Temple said. "Every time something didn't fit, they kind of made it fit. I'm going to show you all them little holes."
Temple told jurors, "I think when everything is said and done you're going to say that there's no way I could have did it. And I don't think (his girlfriend) Lesley Stewart did it either. I really do believe, even to this day, as much as I don't like Lesley Stewart anymore, that it was an accident."
Temple has maintained that both he and his wife were "swingers" who frequented sex clubs, usually at private homes. In 1999, after Christensen's disappearance, he gave a tearful interview with journalists and said he was concerned some of these swingers might be responsible.
But two of Christensen's co-workers and friends testified Tuesday that they couldn't believe she was into any such thing.
Curtis Krueger can be reached at (727) 893-8232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.