Man killed outside Denny's: Jury deliberating murder re-trial of Terry Thompson

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Saturday, November 3, 2018
Man killed outside Denny's: Jury deliberating murder re-trial of Terry Thompson
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Man killed outside Denny's: Jury deliberating murder re-trial of Terry Thompson

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- In closing arguments, prosecutors replayed the video as a final ask of jurors to exact justice and find Terry Thompson guilty of murder.

"At the moment 24-year-old John Hernandez gives up," said Harris county Assistant District Attorney John Jordan, "At the moment 24-year-old John Hernandez taps out and you continue, it's certainly not self-defense and it's murder."

The defense said Thompson was defending himself against a belligerent Hernandez who punched Thompson in the face.

"The state must disprove both self-defense and necessity beyond a reasonable doubt," said Defense Attorney Scot Courtney.

"It's raised. Once it's raised, the state must disprove it beyond a reasonable doubt, just like they have to prove the offenses to begin with," Courtney said.

Prosecutors repeatedly pointed to video in which Hernandez is seen "tapping out," surrendering to Thompson. But Thompson continued to hold Hernandez for another three minutes and 36 seconds.

Prosecutors sat quietly for that length of time, demonstrating how long Hernandez fought to breathe under Thompson's weight.

"You've watched the video over and over again," argued Harris County Assistant District Attorney Sarah Seely. "You've heard the testimony of the witnesses. No one ever said Terry Thompson wasn't on top. John Hernandez never punched him. John Hernandez never kicked him. John Hernandez never got back up."

But the defense countered, saying an intoxicated Hernandez struck first in May 2017, punching Thompson when told not to urinate outside the restaurant. They say it wasn't murder. It was self-defense.

"What we (attorneys) say don't mean a hill of beans," said Courtney. "It's what y'all say the evidence says. Y'all get to look at it. Y'all decide what's credible and isn't."

Thompson's first trial for the choking death of Hernandez ended in a hung jury in June. The jury deliberated for more than 26 hours over three days.

Prosecutors delivered their opening statements on Oct. 23. There were notable differences this time around. The Hernandez family pushed for new prosecutors after the hung jury decision last summer.

Both sides presented closing arguments Friday morning before the jury was charged to begin deliberations.

They were deadlocked in their vote on the murder charge: 11-1 not guilty. For the charge of manslaughter, 10 jurors voted not guilty. Eight jurors voted not guilty for the charge of criminally negligent homicide.

DEATH AT DENNY'S: The fight, fatality and fallout of a fateful night

This case got a lot of attention because of the videos taken the night Thompson had his fatal confrontation with Hernandez.

SEE ALSO: Terry Thompson first murder trial: What we learned in court about the deadly fight outside Denny's

"The level of frustration for the family was because of many factors, but more importantly, because of the fact they are not going to get their loved one back," said Cesar Espinosa, Hernandez family spokesperson.

RELATED: Timeline of deadly fight in Denny's parking lot

Meanwhile, the defense says the outcome of the first trial was very much in favor of acquitting Thompson, with 11 to one voting not guilty on the murder charge. They hope for a similar outcome this time.

"I thought that the jury split was certainly to our advantage. I think they saw the facts," said Courtney.

In the previous trial, Courtney cross-examined several witnesses who said they saw what was going on and that put the doubt in the jurors' mind as to who was responsible for the fight and Hernandez's death.

Thompson's wife, Chauna, is a former Harris County Sheriff's deputy. She also faces murder charges for her role in the altercation.

A jury can find Thompson guilty or not guilty of manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide.