Jurors deliberated about 90 minutes Thursday afternoon before convicting Jose Camacho, 45, of the 2001 murder of Hanover Park man.
The verdict announcement elicited no emotion from Camacho, who faces between 20 and 60 years in prison when he is sentenced, possibly on Dec. 6, his next court date.
"Anger and anger alone" caused the former Hanover Park man to kill 28-year-old Flavio Venancio on May 24, 2001, said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Mike Clarke, who argued Camacho acted intentionally when he choked, stabbed and drowned Venancio in a retention pond near the Schaumburg Metra station.
Clarke rejected Camacho's claim that he acted in self-defense after Venancio threatened him and attacked him with a knife.
"The defendant's story is nothing but a self-serving way to bail him out of this mess," Clarke said.
Defense attorney Dean Binstock insisted that her client was fighting for his life with a man who was violent and drunk. A Cook County medical examiner estimated Venancio's blood alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit of .08 when he died. Binstock referred to testimony from Venancio's co-worker, Nazario Morales-Martinez, who said he had to restrain Venancio from picking a fight with two teenage boys outside a liquor store several hours before Venancio died.
"Flavio Venancio became a significant and deadly threat to (Camacho)," Binstock said.
The struggle began after Camacho and Venancio spent several hours drinking beer together. After the beer ran out, Venancio suggested they buy more, Camacho testified. The men drove to a liquor store in Camacho's car but were unable to purchase the alcohol. On the way to another store, Venancio taunted Camacho and urged him to drive faster, causing Camacho to crash his red Mitsubishi Eclipse into a guardrail near the Schaumburg Metra station, Camacho said.
Prosecutors claim Camacho became angry at Venancio for the taunts and the car damage. They say Camacho choked Venancio, stabbed him multiple times with a pen and drowned him in the retention pond, where a mosquito abatement employee found his body the following day.
Camacho insisted he stabbed Venancio in self-defense after Venancio threatened him and attacked him with a knife when they got out of the car to inspect the damage, which he said Venancio caused by trying to grab the steering wheel.
Camacho testified that Venancio waved a knife at him, tripped and dropped it. Camacho says he picked it up and tossed away. Police recovered no knife. A struggle ensued, said Camacho, who testified the men had their hands around each other's throats. Somehow, said Camacho, they ended up in the water. Venancio, who was face down, stopped fighting. Camacho testified he pulled Venancio to shore and pushed his stomach to expel water he had swallowed. Camacho said he left when he saw Venancio's arm move, because he feared another attack.
Camacho fled to Mexico and was extradited to Chicago in 2012.
Responding to prosecutors' questions about why Camacho didn't simply run away from the man he said attacked him, Binstock stated that "a person who's being threatened does not have a duty to retreat. He has a right to stand his ground."
Clarke insisted Camacho was not credible, pointing out to jurors that police found no knife at the scene and that Camacho never mentioned one the following day when he told several friends about the incident.