Trial begins for ex-deputy's husband charged in John Hernandez's death

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

HOUSTON - Opening statements were delivered Wednesday in the trial of Terry Thompson, the man charged with murder in the death of John Hernandez after a confrontation outside a northeast Houston restaurant last year.

Thompson, and his wife, Chauna, who is a former Harris County sheriff’s deputy, were each charged with murder in connection with the May 28, 2017, death at the Denny’s restaurant in the 17200 block of Crosby Freeway.

TIMELINE: The John Hernandez case

During the opening day of his trial, Prosecutor Jules Johnson said Terry Thompson began yelling after he saw Hernandez urinating in the parking lot, blocked him from going back inside, body slammed him and put Hernandez in a chokehold for 15 minutes.

"Within seconds of that confrontation the defendant has the upper hand. He has taken John Hernandez, hurled him over his shoulder, and thrown him on his back. And he's on top of him. And he's striking him,” Johnson said. "He continues to hold this choke hold until it is confirmed that Mr. Hernandez is no longer breathing. Upwards of 15 minutes with what in the defendant's words is a chokehold."

Investigators said Thompson’s chokehold cut off the oxygen to Hernandez’s brain. Hernandez died three days later after he was removed from life support. The official cause of death was listed as strangulation.

Defense Attorney Scot Courtney described Hernandez as a drunken driver who put his 3-year-old daughter in danger by driving to the restaurant, and he described his client as a responsible father who spent the day with his family. He said Thompson began yelling because he was trying to protect his teenage daughter and her friends from Hernandez’s urination.

“Terry Thompson said, ‘Hey! Pal! You can’t do that in the middle of the parking lot! I have teenage girls,’” Courtney said.

According to Courtney, Hernandez punched his client in the eye, which led to a charge being filed against Hernandez.

"There's no question Mr. Hernandez, his response was to assault this guy for saying, 'Hey you can't publicly urinate and expose yourself to everybody else out here,'" Courtney said.

Courtney said the video that was widely seen after the confrontation only shows 53 seconds of what happened that night.

“I believe that the evidence will show that the mere fact this struggle lasted as long as it did indicates that Mr. Thompson had no intention of killing Mr. Hernandez,” Courtney said.

Investigators said Chauna Thompson held down Hernandez’s arms while her husband had him in a chokehold. Her trial is set to begin in October.

VIDEO: Prosecution, defense deliver opening statements

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