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Punishment for husband of fired Harris County deputy to go to the jury Wednesday

November 7, 2018

A Harris County jury spent Tuesday listening to both the virtues and misdeeds of Terry Bryan Thompson, a railroad worker and the husband of a fired sheriff’s deputy they convicted of murder a day earlier.

Jurors are expected to return to court Wednesday to decide the appropriate punishment for strangling John Hernandez in a chokehold outside a Denny’s last year. They heard about Thompson’s previous run-ins with the law, and they also listened as supporters told of a trustworthy man with an incredible work ethic.

Thompson, a 42-year-old father of four, faces a sentence ranging from five years to life in prison because he was convicted of the felony of burglarizing a motor vehicle when he was 17.

The jury heard about the conviction and a 2014 incident in which Thompson’s teenage son told a 15-year-old friend and neighbor to call the police because Thompson was beating him.

“He said his dad was beating on him,” former neighbor Courtney Wood testified. She was a friend of one of Thompson’s sons and was walking to the house when the teen boy came out of the house, where his father was yelling, and told her to call the police.

Police did respond and, after handcuffing Thompson, did not arrest him because there did not appear to be enough evidence to file charges.

Wood said Thompson then came to her house to confront her and her mother.

“He was mad, aggravated,” she told the jury Tuesday. “He was obviously upset.”

It was part of the prosecution’s plan to show Thompson’s temper had landed him in trouble before May 28, 2017 when he fatally choked the 24-year-old Hernandez, an auto glass installer who was with his family at the Crosby-area restaurant.

Hernandez was intoxicated and apparently urinating in the parking lot when Thompson arrived with his teenage daughter and her friends. Thompson confronted Hernandez, who apparently punched the older man in the eye.

Thompson was able to put Hernandez in a chokehold during a fight that lasted 15-minutes. Hernandez eventually lost consciousness and died in a hospital bed days later after being declared brain dead.

Part of the incident was captured on a 53-second cell phone video that ignited protests about how the altercation was initially handled by the sheriff’s office when it was released.

Days after the video was released, Thompson and his wife, Chauna Thompson, were indicted for murder and she had been fired from the sheriff’s office.

On Tuesday, Chauna Thompson sat with family and her children during the punishment phase of her husband’s trial, the first time she spent a substantial amount of time watching the proceedings. Her trial is pending.

Neither she, nor her husband, testified about what happened.

Several of Thompson’s friends and family testifed that he could be boisterous and excitable, but that he was trustworthy and worked hard.

“His children are the love of his life,” David Weldon, a 58-year family member from Conroe testified. “When his kids are around, its all about the kids.”

It is the second time the high-profile murder case against Thompson has gone to trial. In June, a first trial ended in a mistrial after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. In that trial, Thompson missed being acquitted by one vote, that of a juror who did not believe it was a case of self-defense.

The trial, in state District Judge Kelli Johnson’s court, is in its third week. She told jurors to bring an overnight bag and be prepared to be sequestered if they do not reach a verdict Wednesday.

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