Legal experts weigh in after Terry Thompson's mistrial

Monday, June 25, 2018
What happens next after mistrial
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What happens next after mistrial? Christine Dobbyn has more.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The mistrial provoked a lot of emotions from the family of John Hernandez.

One relative cried, "This is unbelievable."

After sitting through the trial and almost 30 hours of deliberations, they left the courthouse without justice.

"He gets to enjoy his days out here while we relive the nightmare again, and again, and again," said the victim's aunt, Wendy.

Terry Thompson left the courthouse as a free man -- for now. He had nothing to say to reporters as he left the courthouse.

Steve Shellist is a defense attorney who has also worked as a prosecutor. He says he's not surprised by the mistrial because it was such a complicated case.

Jurors had four choices: guilty of murder, guilty of manslaughter, guilty of criminally negligent homicide or not guilty, meaning they believed Thompson acted in self-defense.

"The self-defense charge on a deadly force case would be pages in and of itself," Shellist said. "It's complicated stuff, a lot for a jury to take in, and most jurors are not lawyers, they're lay people."

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Eyewitness News Reporter Christine Dobbyn asked, "Do you think the prosecution should have given them fewer options?"

"No, I don't think the prosecution really had a choice the way the trial unfolded. If they would have just charged for murder and not asked for lesser included, it likely would have been an acquittal," Shellist responded. "If they hadn't asked for murder, then the citizens of Harris County would have been in an uproar over why you didn't file it as a murder case."

Shellist explained the DA would look closely at the jury split before deciding how to move forward.

"If it was heavily in favor of guilty on manslaughter, then you begin to focus on manslaughter. If it was heavily in favor of not guilty completely, meaning they supported a self-defense charge, then you regroup and really have to think on whether or not you're going to re-prosecute the case," said Shellist.

On Monday, defense attorney Greg Cagle confirmed the jury was deadlocked 10-2, in favor of not guilty. Shortly after that news came out, the DA's office announced they will retry Thompson for the homicide. No trial date has been announced.

The family of John Hernandez walked down the hall, arms locked, as the patriarch of the family spoke over the weekend.

Ignacio Hernandez said, "We believe in justice and even though today it was not served, we are not going to give up."

A spokesperson for LULAC released a statement shortly after the mistrial:

"LULAC is deeply disappointed and disheartened by the court's decision to declare a mistrial in the case against Terry Thompson. We strongly urge the DA to maintain its vigilance and retry the case as soon as conveniently possible. Our heart goes to the Hernandez family for the disconcerted anguish they are experiencing and pray that justice will eventually be served."

A peaceful protest is planned for Monday at the courthouse.