A decades long battle between a man accused of capital murder and District Attorney Jaime Esparza will continue next week, with jury selection beginning Monday, July 9 in the case against Daniel Villegas.
Villegas is accused of killing two men in a drive-by shooting in Northeast El Paso in 1993. Robert England and Armando Lazo were walking with two other friends when they were approached by a car believed to be driven by gang members.
In 1994, Villegas’ first capital murder trial ended in a hung jury. A second murder case in 1995 resulted in Villegas’ conviction and an automatic life sentence.
Local El Paso contractor John Mimbela learned of the Villegas case and began a tireless effort to appeal the case against Villegas. After 18-years in prison, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in 2013 that the confession Villegas made to an EPPD detective was coerced. Villegas was released on bond the following year and has been awaiting a third trial since.
In 2017, two lower courts ruled key evidence of jail house recordings of Villegas could not be used in the third trial against him.
“I think the biggest part of the battle is that we’re not really fighting evidence because there’s not any evidence that we’ve seen implicating Daniel the real fight had been getting this case to do a do over so to speak and that’s where we are right now,” Villegas’ defense attorney Joe Spencer told KTSM.
Spencer says he talked with the prosecutors on the case on Friday and they don’t think the trial set for next week will last very long, possibly a week.
The Villegas case has been highly publicized and was the focus of a 2017 episode of Dateline. KTSM will have a reporter in the courtroom throughout the entire trial.