HOUSTON – The highly-anticipated murder trial of Terry Thompson– accused of fatally choking John Hernandez during a fight outside a Denny’s in Harris County last year– officially got underway on Wednesday.
Judge Kelli Johnson asked Thompson for his plea in the case.
“Not guilty, your Honor,” he responded.
The prosecution’s opening arguments focused on the now-infamous choke-hold Thompson applied to Hernandez which was caught on camera outside the restaurant.
“He continues to hold this choke-hold until it is confirmed that Mr. Hernandez is no longer breathing,” prosecutor Jules Johnson told the jury.
Thompson sat quietly listening to his attorney’s opening statement with his face filled with concern.
“He’s got a guy who he thinks is dangerous— has assaulted him— and he’s holding onto him,” defense attorney Scot Courtney insisted. “And he’s holding on, and this guy’s doing everything he can to get up.”
The defendant appeared to be praying right before the court proceedings began.
Judge Johnson’s 178th District Court heard plenty of drama as the prosecution called its first witnesses.
“Please keep your attention only to what happens here in the while of the court room, and remember that you are the sole judge of the facts and the credibility of the witnesses,” the judge instructed the jury.
Thompson faces life in prison if convicted.
His wife and former Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy– Chauna Thompson– faces a murder charge and her own trial in the case later this year.
In the meantime, the Hernandez family plans to fight for justice in both cases and appeared outside the court house.
“I feel very disappointed because it’s been way too long, and we’ve been waiting for them to be incarcerated,” John Hernandez’s sister, Jasmine Hernandez, said. “But nothing’s happened.”
In both cases, a Harris County jury will get to decide what happens next.