Good news today out of El Paso, TX; a man who’s been in prison for 18 years is currently free on bond, after it was ruled that he did not receive adequate counsel during his trial.
Daniel Villegas was convicted of performing a drive-by shooting back in 1993; the then 16 year old confessed, and the confession was used to convict him. Apparently, though, his confession did not match the crime. Details that the shooter would have known, such as the color of the car he rode in, were incorrect. Villegas later recanted, saying the confession was coerced.
He is currently awaiting a new trial date. Much like the case of Ernie Lopez, prosecutors show no sign of dropping the charges.
This case is significant to me. Much like the case of Carlos Coy, there does not appear to have been any physical evidence linking Villegas to the shooting. Only testimony. In 2009, two other victims of the shooting who survived signed affidavits that Villegas’ confession did not match what had happened that night.
Ben Hodge, the foreman of the jury that convicted Villegas, has also stated in court documents that he would not have convicted Villegas had he heard some of the evidence presented during a series of 2011 court hearings that took place before Medrano.
An investigation funded by Mimbela found several inconsistencies between the confession allegedly given by Villegas and accounts by witnesses, including the description of the car involved in the shooting. The car and the firearm used in the shooting were never found.
Although Villegas’ future remains in doubt, it’s a good start to 2014.