An emotional and at times bizarre trial came to a close Thursday afternoon as a jury found a San Mateo man guilty of second-degree murder in the 2004 bludgeoning death of his houseguest.
Cesar Agusto King, 27, repeatedly blinked and wiped his eyes as the six-man, six-woman jury’s verdict was read. He was also found guilty of the special circumstance of using a deadly weapon in the attack.
His attorney, public defender Patrick Concannon, said King now faces 15 or 16 years to life in prison — depending on whether Judge Craig Parsons takes the deadly-weapon circumstance into consideration at King’s Nov. 29 sentencing.
“I’m disappointed,” Concannon said. “A second-degree murder conviction still exposes him to the rest of his life in prison.”
King was convicted of fatally striking 25-year-old Samuel Vasquez in the head with a board. Vasquez, the cousin of one of King’s roommates, had beaten King hours earlier in a drunken brawl over who made more money. Prosecutors maintained a revenge-seeking King came back to the North Idaho Street apartment hours later and bludgeoned Vasquez with a 2-by-6-foot wooden board as Vasquez was unconscious on the floor. King claimed Vasquez was a dangerous man whom he struck in self-defense.
The trial took a strange turn last week when King took the stand in his own defense, moaning and making high-pitched whining noises as he recounted his fight with Vasquez.
On Thursday, Concannon said King’s strong emotions may have negatively influenced the jury.
“They could have bought the prosecution’s theory that it was fabricated or they could have thought he had a hard time controlling himself,” he said.
Jury forewoman Susan Brooks fought back tears as she described the difficult decision she and her fellow jurors faced.
“I’m shaking. I feel terrible, but there was no other reasonable conclusion,” she said.
After deliberating for more than a day, jurors decided that the evidence supported the prosecution’s theory that Vasquez was lying immobile when attacked, she said.
However, they did not believe the attack was premeditated — a requirement for a first-degree murder conviction.
“We don’t think he intended to kill him, but it happened,” she said. “We don’t think Mr. King is a bad person, but we think he made a bad decision.”
Deputy District Attorney Joseph Cannon said he still believes King’s actions were premeditated, but accepts the jury’s decision.
“I think it’s a just result,” Cannon said.