Jurors at Terry Thompson's trial see pictures of his black eye

By Ryan Korsgard - Reporter, Aaron Barker - Senior Digital Editor

Jurors were shown pictures of Terry Thompson’s black eye as a witness and deputy described the night of a confrontation last year that led to the death of John Hernandez.

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.

Court started Monday with jurors hearing the audio recording of an interview conducted with a witness who saw everything from the start, beginning with Hernandez urinating in the parking lot to when he was receiving CPR after Chauna Thompson arrived.

In the recording, James Leon Keith described Terry Thompson and Hernandez as being chest to chest shortly after he saw Hernandez urinating. He said that soon after that the two men were on the ground. He said he heard Terry Thompson’s daughter say, “Daddy don’t!” 

Keith said he saw the incident as a man defending himself and his children against an aggressor. 
“I’d have done the same thing in a heartbeat,” Keith said in the recording.  

Keith said that he heard Maria Toral, Hernandez’s girlfriend, saying, “He’s drunk. He’s drunk. He’s drunk.”  

Medical records showed Hernandez was very drunk.  At 2:01 a.m., less than three hours after the incident, his blood alcohol was 0.204.  The legal level for intoxication, in the state of Texas, is 0.08.  A sergeant at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said on the stand that level is considered heavily intoxicated. A deputy, who investigated the incident, said there was no indication Terry Thompson had anything to drink.

A Harris County sheriff’s deputy who was called to assist Chauna Thompson testified that he arrived to find Hernandez on the ground and not breathing, and CPR was underway.

The deputy also showed crime scene photos, saying he conducted interviews and took the photos because the Homicide Division of his office did not come to the scene.

Prosecutors showed a photo of Thompson’s injured left eye. This is where previous witnesses have said Hernandez hit Thompson, and the defense claimed Hernandez was the aggressor. 

The deputy said he requested assault charges against Hernandez as the primary aggressor, in other words, the person who started the confrontation. The deputy said he did not know that Hernandez was, at the time, brain dead at the hospital.

PHOTOS: Inside John Hernandez death cases following Denny's confrontation

During his testimony, Brian Riefkohl, 19, demonstrated on Prosecutor Jules Jackson how he said Terry Thompson initially restrained Hernandez on the ground. He then showed how he said Terry Thompson held Hernandez on the ground -- first, chest to chest, and then Terry Thompson was on top of Hernandez.

Standing 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighing 120 pounds, Riefkohl said he climbed on top of the two and tried to pull Terry Thompson off of Hernandez, but said he could not move the two. He said he tried to talk to Terry Thompson, but he said he was red, appeared angry and would not budge.

Riefkohl said he had just wrapped up his shift and was eating a burger when Hernandez and his family came into the restaurant. Video played for the jury showed the two in the dining room together.

"(Hernandez was) a normal guy, just trying to eat,” Riefkohl said.

Riefkohl said they discussed soccer, and Hernandez even offered Riefkohl the soccer shirt he was wearing. 

Chauna Thompson is scheduled to stand trial in October.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Thompson was intoxicated. The above story has been corrected.

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