Prosecutors argued that 18-year-old Eddie Herrera choked his girlfriend to death in a hotel room on prom night; the defense said it was a drug and alcohol overdose. The medical examiner ruled her death "undetermined," as the Houston Chronicle reported. So jurors were left to decide instead.
On Wednesday, after a short two-day trial, a Harris County jury sided with the prosecutors, sentencing Herrera to 25 years in prison.
According to the Chron, Herrera and his girlfriend, Jacqueline Gomez, stayed the night in a hotel room after their senior prom, just before graduation from Aldine ISD's MacArthur High School. Prosecutors said Herrera's mother had helped the couple purchase the room — and also helped them out with a couple of bottles of whiskey and 20 pills of hydrocodone. After getting blasted, they had sex, and Herrera, now 20, would later tell police that his girlfriend asked him to squeeze her neck. He would tell the police that the two talked before they went to sleep, only for him to later wake up and find her dead.
All through the trial, the jury had been left to decide what it was that killed Gomez: the drugs or the choking. Herrera, however, was not charged with murder, but with causing serious bodily injury, a first-degree felony, meaning prosecutors didn't have to prove that he killed her.
As the Chron reported, prosecutors pointed out the fact that Gomez had bruises on her neck in order to make her case: "She had hemorrhaging through every layer of her neck," Assistant Harris County District Attorney Justin Wood told jurors in closing arguments, the Chron reported. "Anybody who is able to inflict that kind of injury is doing it with intent."
While the defense may have tried to downplay the injury and emphasize the night's overall recklessness, the jury was apparently not swayed.
As for Herrera's mother, she faces her own drug possession charges, but has yet to be tried.