Possible delay in trial of former Harris County sheriff's deputy accused of shooting unarmed man

HOUSTON – A former Harris County sheriff’s deputy was scheduled to stand trial Friday for the March 2018 fatal shooting of an unarmed man in the Greenspoint area.

Prosecutors are now asking a judge to delay the start of the trial until September, while defense attorneys are balking at the reason for that request.

What happened?

In March 2018, video captured Danny Thomas wandering through a Greenspoint-area intersection with his pants around his ankles, slapping at cars. Then-Deputy Cameron Brewer ordered Thomas, who was unarmed, to stop. Officials say Thomas kept advancing and Brewer shot him one time, killing him. Brewer was terminated by the Sheriff’s Office and later indicted on a charge of aggravated assault by a public servant. The shooting sparked protests and criticism that Brewer didn't use his Taser to stop Thomas.

“I don't think the full, complete story has been out there,” said defense attorney Edward McClees.

Without going into specifics, defense attorneys McClees and Lisa Andrews said the former deputy did not overstep his authority when using deadly force. In court filings, the defense says that Thomas was high on PCP and a Taser would have been ineffective.

“He was acting in self-defense of himself and for the other citizens that were in that busy intersection that day,” Andrews said. “We've been actively preparing for trial. Our client is very anxious to go to trial.”

Trial delayed?

The trial was scheduled to start Friday, but prosecutors are asking a judge for a continuance.

“Now that we're on the eve of trial, it seems that they're trying to get out of trying the case,” said McClees.

As part of their initial investigation, Andrews and McClees asked prosecutors for records regarding Child Protective Services investigations involving some of Thomas' children. One of those investigations involved Sheborah Thomas, who is accused of drowning her children in 2016.

Sheborah Thomas has yet to stand trial on charges of capital murder. 

Both Andrews and McClees said they later realized those records would have little bearing on a self-defense claim.

“We don't believe that CPS records about his parenting or the mother's parenting is relevant to whether our client had a legal right to act in self-defense,” said Andrews.

McClees said he and Andrews notified prosecutors that they are willing to waive their client’s rights to those records.

“We're even willing to forego that so that we can go to trial," McClees said.

Prosecutors argue that, since the defense asked for the records, it is duty bound to hand over those records. Even though defense attorneys stated they would waive the rights to those files, prosecutors wrote, "Such waiver would not be an intelligent, knowing or voluntary waiver, thereby building reversible error into the case." 

Prosecutors wrote that in addition to the Sheborah Thomas case, there are other relevant documents in other cases still in the custody of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Prosecutors wrote that there are thousands of pages to gather and more time is needed.

File: Brewer 1_20190722174423File: Brewer 2_20190722174423

What’s next?

A hearing on this issue is scheduled for Tuesday morning. No decision has been made yet on the prosecution’s request for a continuance.