Unusual admission gives Fresno murder defendant ray of hope

FRESNO, Calif.

Jose Angel Perez, 29, is the last of eleven people to face charges for the 2006 murder.

Perez denies pulling the trigger in the gang-motivated shooting, and prosecutors admit there's no evidence he killed anyone. But even his defense attorney admits what he did amounts to murder. Still, one simple claim could give Perez a tiny bit of hope.

It took almost eight years, but Perez is on the verge of paying a heavy price for the murder of Nath Ouch and the unborn daughter family members call Cali Ann.

As friends in his gang started getting arrested after the February 2006 shooting, Perez took off for Mexico. And while he was gone, his former friends named him as one of two men who fired towards Ouch. Prosecutors say his bullets didn't hit the pregnant woman, but that's irrelevant.

"Really the only thing he's lucky enough to have had happen is that it was [the other shooter's] bullet and not his, but it still doesn't matter they're all liable and guilty of murder," said prosecutor Jeff Dupras.

Defense attorney Pete Jones admitted Perez is legally a murderer. But he says Perez and the other shooter didn't plan to kill anyone when they went to the Southeast Fresno apartment complex and opened fire from the elementary school across the street. And he says bullet holes in the school's fence prove it.

"He's shooting the fence," Jones said. "He's shooting the bar. Pieces of bullets are flying back. This is not the work of a hitman or a person in complete control of his senses."

Perez chose not to testify Tuesday, but he did talk to police after they caught him in Mexico in 2011. He admitted to some participation, but laid the foundation for the claim that he was not in control of his senses, which along with the lack of intent could make this second degree murder instead of first degree.

"I was so ecstasied up that day and drunk I don't remember that day man, to tell you the truth," he told investigators. "I swear to God. I don't remember."

The jury will start deliberations Wednesday morning. If they agree Perez and his friend didn't intend to kill anyone, it'd be second degree murder and he might someday get out of prison. Another jury already found the other shooter guilty of first degree murder, though. He's in prison for life with no possibility of parole. That could also be the fate of Perez.

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