Daniel Villegas will be tried for capital murder for the third time on Oct. 1. The case stems from a 1993 shooting, which originally saw Villegas sent to prison for 18 years.
Here are some of the key players in the third, and possibly final, trial which will take place at the El Paso County Courthouse:
Daniel Villegas, the defendant
The State’s lead suspect in the murder of Armando “Mando” Lazo and Bobby England, who were shot and killed in 1993. He was 16 years old at the time and is now 41. He confessed to the murders, but later contended that he was coerced by an El Paso Police Department detective, which a recent court has rule inadmissible.
Villegas was tried twice for Capital Murder. The 1994 ended in a mistrial, after an 11-1 hung jury in favor of a conviction. The 1995 trial ended in a conviction and he was sentenced to life in prison. His direct appeal was denied.
In 2009, Villegas began an application for a writ of habeas corpus, saying his previous lawyer failed to investigate leads and that he had evidence to prove his innocence. In 2012, Judge Sam Medrano Jr. recommended an overturn of his conviction. In 2013, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Villegas had inefficient council and overturned the conviction, but did not acquit Villegas, leaving way for a third trial.
Villegas bailed out of jail in January 2014 and has been living free awaiting trial ever since. His re-trial was scheduled for July, but his wife had the couple’s second child.
Jaime Esparza, the El Paso County District Attorney
Villegas’ conviction was one of Esparza’s first major wins in office. The district attorney even tried the case himself, telling KTSM he was determined to end the uptick in gang related violence.
Esparza has made his intentions to seek a second conviction clear over the course of Villegas’ appeal and more so when he was granted a re-trial.
Denise Butterworth, Assistant District Attorney
Butterworth is the lead prosecutor on the Villegas re-trial. Butterworth is a veteran prosecutor with numerous major trials and convictions under her belt.
James Montoya, Assistant District Attorney
The other Assistant District Attorney assigned to Villegas’ case. Montoya along with Butterworth routinely handles murders and other high-profile cases.
Joe Spencer, defense lawyerDefense attorney for Daniel Villegas. Spencer is one of the most experienced and well-know defense attorney’s in El Paso.
Judge Sam Medrano, Jr.
Judge of the 409th District Court in El Paso. Medrano was the judge who heard Villegas’ appeal and recommended his conviction be overturned, which was upheld by the appeals court.
Medrano routinely hears murders and other violent crime cases.
The original 1995 trial was in front of Judge Mary Anne Bramblett. She was assigned the appeals, but recused herself. Medrano took the case over and has had it ever since.
John Mimbela, local businessman
Owner of Mimbela Contractors and stepfather to Villegas’ nieces. He spearheaded the appeal and has help fund Villegas’ case since learning about it nearly a decade ago.
Armando “Mando” Lazo, victim
One of the two victims killed, two others were wounded, in the 1993 drive-by shooting on Electric Street in Northeast El Paso. Lazo was 17 at the time of his slaying.
Bobby England, victim
The second victim killed on the Good Friday shooting in 1993. England was 18 at the time of his death.
Jesse Hernandez, victim
Hernandez was one of the other two teens shot in 1993. He was 17 at the time, but he survived from his wounds.
Juan Medina, victim
Median was 18 when he was shot. He too survived.
Alfonzo Marquez, former EPPD detective
Marquez was the detective assigned to Villegas’ case in 1993. He was able to obtain a confession from Villegas. However, during his appeal, Villegas’ attorney’s contented that Marquez coerced the confession out of the teen.
Judge Medrano agreed and threw the confession out. It was not appealed by the district attorney’s office.
Marquez was a bailiff for the 210th District Court Judge Gonzalo Garcia until about three years ago.