SAN JOSE -- A San Jose man who nursed a grudge against a former co-worker and fatally stabbed him with a single thrust after running into him at a Safeway supermarket was convicted Wednesday of second-degree murder.

Michael Howard, 29, now faces 16 years to life in prison for killing Juan Munoz, 24, a fellow Pizza Hut employee with whom he had feuded.

Munoz, a San Jose State business student, died Aug. 21, 2012, on the floor of the Safeway on Story Road in San Jose, moments after the stabbing.

It took the jury only about half a day to reach the verdict. Howard's guilt was never in question because the incident was caught on videotape by the store's network of 48 surveillance cameras.

The only task jurors faced was whether he committed first-degree premeditated murder, which requires intent to kill and carries a sentence of 25 years to life plus a one-year enhancement for the knife, or second-degree murder.

His lawyer, deputy public defender Kelley Kulick, successfully argued that he didn't plan the killing, nor did he believe a single knife thrust would kill Munoz. The knife landed near Munoz's heart.

Prosecutor Matt Braker urged the jury to find first-degree murder, saying Howard "pursued, provoked, pushed and then murdered" Munoz. The two hadn't worked together for many months, and Howard was merely out for revenge. Munoz had slapped him during one of their frequent clashes at Pizza Hut. But Braker expressed satisfaction Wednesday that Howard will be remain behind bars.


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"Justice was done today, and I am grateful Juan's parents were in court to hear the verdict," Braker said.

Munoz's heartbroken parents sat through the weeklong trial, including Howard's testimony. Munoz was their oldest of two sons. After the verdict was read Wednesday, they wearily expressed how much he had meant to them.

"I thank God for a son like him," said his father, who is also named Juan Munoz. "He brought so much joy to our house and had so many friends. In his short life, he made me proud."

Judge Ron M. Del Pozzo is set to sentence Howard on Aug. 29.

Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Follow her at Twitter.com/tkaplanreport.