Attorney: Cell phone video responsible 'lightning speed' indictment in Denny's fight case

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A prominent Houston attorney believes cell phone video of a deadly Denny's fight caused the 'lighting speed' murder indictment. (KTRK)

"Lightning speed" is how famed Houston defense attorney Dan Cogdell describes the speedy true-bill of a Harris County couple, one of whom was an off-duty deputy sheriff's deputy, by a grand jury.

Cogdell is not associated with the murder case against Terry and Chauna Thompson, but he's successfully represented a lot of clients over the years.

The cell phone video showing John Hernandez as he struggled to breathe with a chokehold grip around his neck was a compelling ingredient to the couple's indictment, Cogdell said.

"No question, the cell phone video, at least from an outsider looking in, is the alpha and omega of this case," Cogdell said. "There's no way [Thompson] would be charged this quickly, and maybe not even with this offense, but for the cell phone video."

Deputy Chauna Thompson was also charged with murder.

"The worst thing about that video," Cogdell said, "is the people in the middle of it saying, 'Stop the video, stop the video.' That's really offensive to any viewer because it looks like there's a conspiracy of people trying to hide the truth."

A murder charge requires that the accused "knowingly and intentionally" causes the death of the victim.

"I would have plead it under 'intends to cause bodily injury which results in death,'" Cogdell explained. "That's an easier charge to prove, but the state chose to allege it in the fashion it did."

He suspects there may be another reason for the charge that could carry up to a life sentence if a jury returns convictions.

"One could argue the state over-corrected for mistakes of the sheriff's office in the first place, and instead of acknowledging those mistakes, prosecuting more aggressively than it should have been," he said.

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