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Tentative trial date set for Daniel Villegas

By: Melissa Gundersen and Jamel Valencia
EL PASO, Texas A new trial has been set for an El Paso man released on bond last week after the state ordered a new trial on charges he killed two people as a teenager.

Daniel Villegas, 37, was back in the courtroom on Tuesday to hear if District Attorney Jaime Esparza would drop charges or press for a retrial.

"As of now, the District Attorney's Office has not made a decision. All they did was tell the court that they had not finished examining the case," said defense attorney Joe Spencer.

The court hearing was held behind closed doors. When the Villegas family first heard the case is still in limbo, their demeanors' changed.

"We haven't lost hope. It's just sad that the family has to go through this again," said John Mimbela.

Villegas was sentenced in 1995 to life imprisonment in the deaths of teens Armando Lazo and Robert England during a drive-by shooting in northeastern El Paso. Villegas was released after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted him a new trial.

Spencer has argued his client received ineffective defense counsel at trial. Spencer says he believes prosecutors lack evidence to retry his client.

Attorneys are scheduled to go back to court next month to decide if charges will be dropped, but a tentative trial date for Villegas was scheduled for May 28.

"I mean (Esparza) fought us every inch of the way and it's just sad that it's become more about winning than the justice," said Mimbela.

The El Paso County District Attorney has declined comment.



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