Terry Thompson was found guilty of murder Monday for strangling a 24-year-old outside a Houston Denny’s last year. The husband of a former sheriff’s deputy — who was also involved in the case — now faces up to life in prison.
The incident began after Thompson confronted John Hernandez about urinating in the restaurant’s parking lot in May 2017. Prosecutors argued Thompson wanted to kill him and kept him in a chokehold even after he stopped resisting. Thompson’s attorneys, on the other hand, countered that he was only defending himself after being punched.
His wife, Chauna Thompson, 46, later arrived to help her husband restrain Hernandez. She was off-duty at the time and was later fired by the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. Her trial is set for April.
Jurors found Thompson guilty of murder after deliberating for nearly seven hours. This is Thompson’s second trial because the first one, which took place in June, ended with a hung jury. Following his conviction, Thompson mouthed the words “I love you” to someone in the audience.
“It’s the right outcome,” Tom Berg, First Assistant District Attorney for Harris County, said of the verdict. “We will be asking for a lot of time because he took another man’s life.”
During closing arguments on Friday, prosecutor John Jordan played 911 calls and cellphone video in which witnesses can be heard pleading for Thompson to let go of Hernandez, and he can be heard gasping for air.
Jordan said that during the altercation, Hernandez signaled that he was no longer resisting but that Terry kept him in a chokehold for an additional three minutes and 36 seconds until Hernandez went limp.
“Terry Bryan Thompson did not kill John Hernandez because he had to. He killed him because he wanted to,” Jordan said.
Hernandez died at a hospital three days later. A medical examiner ruled he died of lack of oxygen to the brain caused by strangulation and chest compression.
After Monday’s verdict, Hernandez’s family waited in the courtroom until Thompson was handcuffed and taken into custody.
Ignacio Hernandez, John Hernandez’s father, said: “The prosecutors tried the case like it was their own family. They gave us more hope that justice would be done.”