HOUSTON (AP) — Prosecutors rushed to judge a Houston-area sheriff's deputy and her husband because of their ties to law enforcement when charging the couple with murder in the death of a man they confronted outside a restaurant, their attorneys said Tuesday.
Harris County Deputy Chauna Thompson and her husband, Terry Thompson, are accused of causing the death of 24-year-old John Hernandez, who died three days after the May 28 confrontation outside a Denny's restaurant in Sheldon.
The couple made their first court appearance in the case Tuesday, but said little and didn't enter pleas. Dozens of protesters chased after the couple following their court appearance, hitting and surrounding their car outside the courtroom.
"My client probably would not be indicted but for her job title," attorney Greg Cagle, who represents Chauna Thompson, said following the hearing.
The Harris County District Attorney's Office denied the claims, saying prosecutors are dedicated to an orderly process in the case. Hernandez's relatives allege authorities didn't act quickly enough to arrest the couple because she worked in law enforcement.
Authorities allege Terry Thompson confronted an intoxicated Hernandez after seeing him urinate in public and placed him in a chokehold. Chauna Thompson, who was off duty at the time, arrived later to help her husband subdue and restrain Hernandez.
Hernandez was hospitalized and died on May 31. A medical examiner ruled that he died of lack of oxygen to the brain caused by strangulation and chest compression.
The Thompsons, who are each free on $100,000 bonds, will next be in court on July 14.
About 60 protesters were outside the courthouse during the hearing, some holding signs saying, "Justice for John."
When the Thompsons left court and walked to a waiting car, protesters followed, with many chanting "murderers" in Spanish. Some protesters slammed their fists on the hood or kicked the sides of the vehicle.
Deputies had to move the protesters so the car could drive away.
Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at www.twitter.com/juanlozano70