EL PASO, Texas - The man charged with shooting and killing an El Paso County Sheriff's Deputy surprised the courtroom on Thursday by breaking his silence, against the advice of his attorney.
Facundo Chavez, 27, faces a capital murder charge in connection with the death of the late Deputy Peter Herrera, who worked with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. He was also charged with possessing a firearm while being a felon.
"Can I talk to (the judge)?" Chavez asked his attorney, Tom Hughes.
"My advice is no," Hughes responded, adding "It will be on the evening news (and) in the newspaper."
"I just want to talk to the judge," Chavez insisted in court.
"It's playing with a gun that might shoot you," Hughes warned.
Ultimately, Chavez asked Judge Diane Navarette for another attorney.
"Your case has just started," she told Chavez.
"I don't feel I've been rightfully represented," Chavez said. "I would like someone else."
Judge Navarette acknowledged that Chavez is entitled to other representation, but told him to wait until the next status hearing, which will be in August.
The entire El Paso County Public Defender's Office has recused themselves from the Chavez case, according to Hughes. He said they are not allowed to represent both Chavez and his co-defender, Arlene Piña. Hughes is a private attorney selected from a list of lawyers in El Paso who defend capital murder cases.
Hughes told ABC-7 he was surprised when his client opened his mouth in court. There were 20 people in the gallery, including at least one deputy in uniform.
"The reason they call lawyers mouthpieces is you have a right to have somebody speak for you," Hughes said, adding, "Obviously, he should have allowed his counsel to speak for him. You can make a mistake and say the wrong thing and damage your case."
The state has not yet decided whether to pursue the death penalty in this case.