State rests in Terry Thompson's murder trial
Restraint amounted to torture, specialist says
HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – On Wednesday, the state rested its case in Terry Thompson's murder trial. The defense will now present its case.
Earlier in the day, the court certified Dr. William Smock as a specialist allowed to testify during the sixth day of Thompson's trial.
Thompson and his wife, Chauna, a former Harris County sheriff’s deputy, have each been charged with murder in connection with the May 28, 2017, fight outside a Denny’s restaurant on Crosby Freeway in northeast Houston.
Smock testified that the restraint amounted to torture because John Hernandez could not breathe.
Smock said that the movement of Hernandez’s legs was caused not because he was fighting back, but rather by the natural reaction of the body as Hernandez gasped for air in an attempt to survive.
Smock is from Kentucky and referenced Kentucky law from time to time during his testimony Tuesday and Wednesday.
Defense attorney Scot Courtney questioned Smock’s knowledge of Texas law and, at one point, asked, “Where are we sitting right now?”
Smock replied, “Houston, Texas.”
The two went back and forth on the legal definitions of “serious bodily injury” and “deadly weapon.”
Courtney said strangulation does not even appear in the Texas Penal Code. Courtney said it is a Class A misdemeanor to block air or blood flow.
He said it would only be a felony if it was part of domestic abuse.
After about 10 hours on the stand, Smock finished his testimony.
During cross-examination, Smock said there was no evidence Thompson did anything other than try to restrain Hernandez.
Smock said in a 53-second cellphone recording that Hernandez suffered from positional asphyxia as Thompson’s body weight pushed Hernandez’s chest into the concrete preventing him from breathing.
Courtney spent much of Wednesday trying to discredit Smock’s earlier testimony. Smock agreed that Thompson and Hernandez were actively fighting since their position on the ground kept changing.
In the end, Smock said of Hernandez, "He stopped fighting when he stopped breathing.”
Also Wednesday, the manager of the Denny's recounted what happened that night and why she called 911.
There is a possibility that the jury will get the case as early as Thursday. The judge instructed the jurors to bring their bags packed.
Once they get the case, they will be sequestered.
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