A Wrongful Conviction Story in Texas' Death Row
Charles Thompson and Dennise
On June 13, 1997 Charles Thompson met Dennise Hayslip. It was his birthday. He was 27 and she was 38 years old. They began an intimate relationship and were living together. From time to time, one would move out, but this never lasted long, as they were in love and always got back together.
Alcohol had a negative influence on their relationship. Charles Thompson was an alcoholic, and quick tempered when drunk. Dennise drank as well. Charles Thompson normally started drinking – mainly beer – at lunchtime. Together, they frequented several bars and pubs, 5 to 6 nights a week. When out, Charles Thompson would also drink strong spirits. Unbeknownst to Dennise, Charles Thompson did drugs from time to time. Their relationship took a turn for the worst when Dennise found out about it. She had left her former husband because of his cocaine habits.
At the time the tragedy happened, they were seeing each other, yet living in their own apartments.
The tragedy was pre-programmed when Dennise became romantically interested in Darren Cain. When Charles Thompson was out of town working, she began having an affair with Darren. On April 29, 1998 Dennise and Charles Thompson were out at their Wednesday night spot. A bartender of the pub where they drank testified that Dennise and Charles Thompson had argued, but did not see any evidence of violence between them. A friend who was with them that night, later testified that they had a good relationship. The friend knew Charles Thompson for over seven years. They occasionally worked together in the refrigeration business. He had known Dennise for almost a year.
On the night of April 30, 1998, Darren Cain was working in a bar till 2:00 a.m. Cain decided to go to the apartment of Dennise Hayslip, even though Charles Thompson was there. Cain was under the influence of alcohol and also had consumed some cocaine. A friend of Darren Cain later testified that his childhood friend told him that night that he was going to “confront” Charles Thompson. When Cain arrived at Dennise’s apartment, Thompson got angry. Cain hit him several times in the face, causing Thompson's face to swell on the left side. A neighbor called the Harris County Sheriff Department. Sheriff Deputy William Coker came to the scene. He later said it was at approximately 3:00 a.m. He saw Hayslip, Cain and Charles Thompson standing outside as he approached the building. Each appeared calm and cool. Charles Thompson had a swollen face. During his interviews, Sheriff Deputy Coker determined that Charles Thompson started the fight with Cain over Dennise Hayslip. No one wanted to file charges and Charles Thompson was ordered to leave the property and not return that night.
Charles Thompson returned a little after 6:00 a.m., after calling Dennise who confirmed Cain was gone. Shortly thereafter, Cain also returned to Dennise’s apartment. When Thompson opened the door, a new fight ensued.
When Deputy Coker returned to the apartment three hours after his first appearance, he found Dennise Hayslip shot and bleeding from the mouth. She was conscious but unable to speak. She herself had gone next door to get help and summon assistance. Hayslip was taken by helicopter to the emergency room at Hermann Memorial Hospital. During the flight, Hayslip was sitting up and alert. Cain unfortunately died as a result of his wounds and Chuck got wounded by gunshot.
What happened to Dennise Hayslip?
The brother of Dennise Hayslip testified later in trial that the nurse accompanying Dennise in the helicopter indicated to him that his sister would recover from her wounds. The nurse cannot testify herself anymore because she later died in a helicopter crash.
Dr. Robert Martin, the attending physician in the emergency room, related that Ms. Hayslip was shot through the face, suffering a broken jaw and injuries to her mouth area only. Ms. Hayslip developed difficulties with her breathing and a naso-tracheal intubation was performed to assist her. But the medical staff accidentally put the tube into Dennise's esophagus instead of her trachea. As he was preparing for the surgery, Dr Martin was recalled to the operating room because Ms. Hayslip's breathing condition had worsened. She had been left unattended while hospital personnel scrubbed in preparation for her operation.
Due to the error in ensuring proper oxygenation for Dennise, she firstly sustained brain damage and finally became brain dead. The family made the decision to turn off Dennise's life support systems. Ms. Hayslip died on May 6, 1998 as a result of a medical error. The family pursued civil litigation against Dr. Martin and the hospital, but lost the law suit against the hospital in July 2002.
After reviewing the medical records of Ms. Hayslip, Dr. Pat Radalat, a licensed physician and attorney, testified and gave his opinion that her wounds were not lethal if proper medical care and treatment had been performed by medical personnel at the time of the operation.