Opening statements begin in Terry Thompson retrial

Prosecutors are trying for a second time to get a conviction against Terry Thompson.  They hope to prove Thompson and his wife, who was a Harris County Sheriff’s deputy at the time, murdered a man in a Denny’s restaurant parking lot.  

Terry Thompson’s first trial ended in a hung jury in June 2018.  Now, four months later, the prosecution is trying again for a murder conviction after that deadly confrontation outside a Denny’s last year.

"John Hernandez died face down on the pavement of the Denny's parking lot with that defendant and his police officer wife on John Hernandez’s back,” Prosecutor Sarah Seely told jurors in her opening statement.  Cell phone video shows Thompson and his wife Chauna Thompson on top of John Hernandez.  Mrs. Thompson is out of jail on bond and attending her husband’s trial.

Thompson’s attorney says the couple was trying to restrain Hernandez until police arrived.

“That defendant wrapped his arm around John Hernandez’s neck and applied pressure cutting off both the breath and the blood to the brain,” says Seely, who also told jurors Thompson repeatedly punched Hernandez in the face then put him in a choke hold out of anger, not fear.

The confrontation started after Thompson saw a drunken Hernandez urinating in a Crosby-area Denny’s parking lot and became upset.  However, the defense, who did not give an opening statement, says Hernandez started the fight by punching Thompson in the face.

Kristina Sanchez is one of several people who took video that day in May of last year.  Although she says Thompson’s 16-year-old daughter tried to keep witnesses from recording.

"Do you want me to hit you again?  Those are the words that came from that grown man’s mouth as he strangled the last breath from John Hernandez’s too short life,” says Seely.  

Several people, according to prosecutors, asked and tried to physically get Thompson off of Hernandez, but Seely says he never did stop until Hernandez became lifeless.

“In the last three minutes and thirty seconds of his life, John Hernandez is tapping on the cement.  He is tapping out of a fight. You’ll see his legs slow and you’ll see his arms slow and then you’ll see the defendant get off of John Hernandez's body," Seely says.

Jurors also heard three 911 calls from people reporting Hernandez needed help.  In one of the recordings played in trial, the Denny’s manager says one man is bleeding, the other man won’t get off of him, if they don’t get here soon the man is going to die.  

The trial is expected to resume Wednesday at 9 a.m.