Prosecutors: Jury should sentence husband of sheriff’s deputy to life in prison for strangulation death
Harris County prosecutors Wednesday asked jurors to send Terry Bryan Thompson, 42, to life in prison for the choking death of 24-year-old John Hernandez at a Crosby-area Denny’s restaurant last year.
“There was a day in our county when the life of a John Hernandez would not be considered worth as much as the life of the husband of a sheriff’s deputy,” Assistant District Attorney John Jordan told jurors. “Sadly, I can’t tell you that your verdict will change the past. But, to our community, it will forever define it.”
Since Thompson, the husband of a fired sheriff’s deputy, refused to show mercy and took a life, Jordan argued, jurors should not show mercy and should hand down a life sentence.
Scot Courtney, the defense lawyer for Thompson, asked jurors to hand down a verdict agreeing that the railroad worker was acting in “sudden passion” which would cap his sentence at 20 years.
Additionally, Courtney asked that Thompson be sentenced to even less than the cap.
“Terry Thompson is a good man,” Courtney said. “Did he make a bad decision? Absolutely. You need to give him a sentence that will allow him to, one day, return to his family and the responsibilities that he has taken care of.”
Jurors began deliberating Thompson’s punishment immediately after the closing arguments. The trial has lasted almost three weeks in state District Judge Kelli Johnson’s court.
Thompson was convicted on Monday of murder for fatally choking Hernandez during a late-night altercation at a Crosby-area Denny’s on May 28, 2017, the Sunday before Memorial Day.
Hernandez, who was intoxicated, was apparently urinating outside the restaurant when Thompson arrived with his teenage daughter and her friends. Thompson confronted Hernandez who punched the older man in the eye. However, Thompson was able to get on top of the young father and put him in a chokehold.
Cell phone video of the 53 seconds of the 13-minute long fight showed Thompson and his wife, former deputy Chauna Thompson, holding Hernandez down.
When the cell phone video was released, it ignited a series of protests in downtown Houston about race and how the case had been handled. Originally, Hernandez was charged with assaulting a peace officer, even though he later died of his injuries. After the video surfaced, both Thompsons were indicted for murder, and Chauna Thompson was fired. Her trial is pending.