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Daniel Villegas, now 41, returns to a courtroom for the third time to face murder charges.
Openings statements in the Villegas trial were scheduled for today, Tuesday. Some background on his case: the charges Villegas is facing date back to 1993, when Armando “Mando” Lazo and Bobby England were gunned down in El Paso, Texas. Villegas was 16 years old at the time.
He then confessed to those shootings, but later claimed he was coerced by an El Paso police officer into a confession. Villegas had a mistrial in 1994 due to a hung jury, then a conviction in his second trial in 1995.
Villegas spent 18 years in prison and was let out after appeal his conviction, according to KTSM. He had been sentenced to life in prison. This third trial has been delayed because his wife is pregnant.
“I was hoping it wasn’t going to go to a third trial,” he has said.
Villegas now has a wife and three kids.
A jury of eight women and four men was selected on Monday. Notably, Villegas rejected a plea deal to enter an Alford Plea. This is when a defendant “proclaims he is innocent of the crime and admits that the prosecution has enough evidence to prove that he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
If he took this deal, Villegas’ legal risk could be significantly lesser than it is now, according to his own lawyer.
Joe Spencer told ABC 7 that his client wants to be totally vindicated, but that there is great risk attached to that.
“It’s a huge risk, it’s a huge risk because he could end up having a life sentence,” he said.
On the other hand, jail calls and the confession have not been allowed in evidence.
[Image via KTSM screengrab]