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Prosecution, Defense At Odds Over Audio With Alleged Admission By Convicted Murderer

Published On: Jun 23 2012 11:17:16 AM CDT   Updated On: Jun 23 2012 11:38:12 AM CDT
EL PASO, Texas -

Convicted murderer Daniel Villegas still sleeps at the El Paso County Jail after a hearing on Friday.

He maintains he's an innocent man that was coerced to confess to killings he didn't commit when he was 16 years old.

After 17 years in prison his future hinged on an audiotape discussed in court on Friday.

In the courtroom, the state said the recorded conversation showed Villegas said he's not innocent.

His defense said the same audiotape showed something different.

"I'm saying the same prayer for 17 years. I'm tired. I'm tired of the same prayer," Villegas said on the recording.

The recent audio recordings of phone conversations from jail Villegas had with relatives, including a pivotal talk with his mother, in which the state claims he said he is not innocent.

"That's not me saying what's in those tapes," prosecutor John Briggs told ABC-7. "That's what a certified court reporter that we gave these tapes to and we rely on these people in these courtrooms day in and day out."

But the defense also hired a certified court reporter that had a different result.

"And let's find out who's dealing the truth and who's not dealing the truth," defense attorney Joe Spencer said.

"You can do it but you just don't do it with emotion anymore. It's like, 'oh, well, whatever. Please God let me out of here even though I'm not here to tell you whoo, whoo, whoo.' It's the same thing. It's the same prayer," Villegas said in the recording according to the defense transcript of the recording.

The prosecutor's transcription reads as "you can do it but you just don't do it with emotion anymore. It's like, 'oh, well, whatever. Please God let me out of here even though I'm not innocent whoo, whoo, whoo. It's the same thing. It's the same prayer."

Spencer said it isn't a case of human error when describing the difference between the two transcripts.

"This is a case of human manipulation," Spencer said. "When the State of Texas puts a transcript that is false and misrepresents to the court, 'this is what Daniel Villegas said,' when in fact that's not what he said, that's a problem."

Briggs stands by the state's transcript of the recording.

"I'm not afraid that the court is going to go back and listen to these tapes and make it's own determination," Briggs said.

Villegas' mother, Yolanda, is convinced the state's transcription is wrong.

"I kept on saying that I knew we hadn't said anything about it but everyone kept on saying 'no it's on tape,'" Yolanda said while wearing a "Free Daniel Villegas T-shirt. "And so you're like 'maybe I said it and just didn't pay attention' but now I realize that when we heard it we didn't talk about what they said we did."

Judge Sam Medrano said he plans to decide in the next month if Villegas should get a new trial.


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