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El Paso man found guilty of slaying at 2012 house party
By: Melissa Gundersen
EL PASO, Texas -- Jurors will now decide a punishment for convicted murderer Samuel Perez after finding him guilty of stabbing another man to death at a house party back in 2012.
Perez looked shocked when jurors found him guilty Thursday. He immediately threw his head back and closed his eyes. At one point, the judge even told Perez to tone down his emotions.
At just 26 years old, Perez was found guilty of stabbing Cameron Canada to death at a party on Bob Mitchell Drive in east El Paso on July 22, 2012.
"The young man has to face the consequences of his actions. We forgive, but we have a hard time forgetting," said Paulette Douglas, the victim's grandmother.
While Perez's family was nowhere to be found, the Canada family sat in the courtroom in tears.
"Two children were lost. We lost our grandson and that family lost their son," said Douglas.
The Canada family said the guilty verdict gives them some closure.
But Perez still claims his innocence. He took the stand and told the jury, "I'm sorry for the loss of your son. One day I hope you find the person who did this, because I'm still saying I'm not guilty."
"I hope that one day he faces what he has done and that he comes to terms with what he's done to our family and to his own family," said Douglas.
During the punishment phase, where jurors heard more evidence to decide how much prison time Perez will serve, prosecutors pointed out Perez's criminal history. They said Perez was on probation when this murder happened after serving time for possession of marijuana -- a felony. Prosecutors said Perez also has a history of theft.
Defense Attorney Leonard Morales is hoping Perez is given the minimum prison sentence -- 15 years. Throughout the entire trial, Morales tried pegging the murder on someone else. He even questioned witnesses about a confession to the crime, theoretically clearing his client's name.
Prosecutors said it would be too much of a coincidence, since one witness testified he saw Perez stab Canada. A few people also picked out Perez's photo and called him the murderer.
The Canada family said the guilty verdict isn't about Perez, it's about justice. They said justice has been served, and as they looked at old photos of Canada, memories were triggered.
"He was a fun-loving person. He was a gentle giant," said Douglas.
Jurors will be back in court Friday morning at 8:30 to determine a punishment. Perez could face 15 years to life in prison.