After 25 years, Daniel Villegas’ name has been cleared.
The 41-year-old man who was arrested in 1993 on suspicion of a double murder, was found not guilty by an El Paso jury on Friday.
Villegas collapsed into the arms of his lawyers when he heard the verdict, weeping as his family friends and supporters cheered.
It was the third trial for Villegas, who had a mistrial in 1994 and was found guilty in 1995. He spent nearly 20 years behind bars when his conviction was overturned and he was allowed to bail out of jail.
The El Paso District Attorney’s Office took the case to trial once again, which began on Oct. 1 with jury selection and Oct. 2 with testimony.
Prosecutors rested their case on Thursday and the defense decided to rest their case without calling any witnesses.
In closing statements, prosecutors said Villegas was a clear gang member who told several friends and family members he did it. Defense attorney Joe Spencer said Villegas was an immature teen who was joking about the shooting.
Most witnesses collaborated that Villegas was joking, but claimed detectives either omitted that or coerced them into saying it was true. The state argued it was too convenient that so many witnesses changed their stance.
The case had been featured on Dateline as well as being a major case that caught many El Pasoans attention over the last nine years.
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