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Retrial date set for Daniel Villegas retrial; District Attorney hasn't decided if he'll be retried

By Maria Garcia, MariaG@kvia.com.
Staff Report
Published On: Jan 21 2014 11:39:38 AM CST
Updated On: Jan 23 2014 01:28:29 PM CST
Supporter of Daniel Villegas discusses release

Businessman John Mimbela discusses the release of Daniel Villegas.

EL PASO, Texas -

Still waiting to hear if the District Attorney will retry Daniel Villegas, Judge Sam Medrano set a tentative trial to begin on May 28th.

The District Attorney's office won't comment on the pending case but Spokeswoman Renee Railey said the D.A.'s office is reviewing the case.

If District Attorney Jaime Esparza decides not to retry Villegas, the May trial will be canceled.

Villegas' attorney Joe Spencer on Tuesday said the District Attorney has had three years to review the case but said he respects the process.

"It's a little frustrating and I feel more for Daniel and what's hanging over his head at this time. He would like to get a resolution on this case but I understand that it's a process. I question why they haven't been looking at this case for the last three years."

Villegas was freed on bond last week after his double murder conviction was overturned in December by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Before his release last week, Villegas, 37, had served more than 18 years in prison for the 1993 shooting deaths of teenagers Armando Lazo and Robert England - a crime he insists he did not commit.

John Mimbela, the businessman and family friend who has funded Villegas' defense on Tuesday said it's time to "move forward."

"It's nothing less than what we expected. He's (Jaime Esparza) fought with us every step of the way and it's become more about winning than truth of justice," Mimbela said.

If Esparza decides to retry Villegas, it'll be the third time a jury is tasked with deciding Villegas' fate. His first murder trial was a mistrial, with one juror disagreeing with the rest and his second trial ended with a conviction. Esparza was the prosecutor against Villegas is both of those cases.

The second jury convicted Villegas of capital murder in 1995. He has always maintained his innocence, saying an El Paso Police detective coerced him into confessing to the deadly drive by shooting.

It's unclear if the District Attorney will ask for the potential trial to be tried in another city due to the high level of publicity in El Paso.

Earlier this month, the D.A.'s Office filed a motion to remove Medrano from the case. The motion was denied by Stephen B. Ables, Presiding Judge of the Sixth Administrative Judicial Region of Texas. Medrano in a 2012 opinion stemming from several hearings, said Villegas was actually innocent.

Ables' ruling states the court found "no legal or factual basis" to recuse Judge Medrano.

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