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Jury finds man innocent of 2016 murder of childhood friend

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 06. 2017 1:23PM

MANCHESTER — A Hillsborough County jury found a man innocent in a murder trial where he claimed self defense in a fight with a childhood friend from Puerto Rico, his lawyers said.

Billy Maldonado Cancel walked out of Hillsborough County Superior Court-North after the jury deliberated for 7½ hours.

Cancel testified in the trial that Jonathan Vazquez-Ojeda introduced a handgun into a fistfight on Sept. 14, 2016, his public defenders said.

“Billy (Cancel) grabbed ahold of it and tired to force it away, but it discharged,” said his lawyer, Matthew Hill.

He said the path of the bullet — through Vazquez-Ojeda’s left nipple and lodging in the right hip — supported the self-defense claim.

Vazquez-Ojeda’s brother — Erick Davilla — testified in the trial, and said he saw Cancel pull the gun from his waist band.

The jury got the case Tuesday morning and gave the verdict about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Hill said.

“We were confident in the jury. We believed in Billy and his innocence,” Hill said.

His co-counsel, Julian Jefferson, added, “His acquittal proves that the system works and that this young man is able to move forward with his life.”

After the shooting, Cancel was on the run for about a month, and prosecutors emphasized his flight during opening arguments. He had been in Valley Street jail since Oct. 14, 2016, without bail awaiting trial.

Cancel’s lawyers said he broke down when he walked out of the courthouse. He found a telephone to call his mother in Puerto Rico.

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