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    Posted December 27, 2013 by
    El Paso, Texas

    Wrongfully Convicted Daniel Villegas After 18 Years in Prison on a Life Sentence is Granted a New Trial

    In April of 1993 in El Paso, Texas, Daniel Villegas, only 16 years old, was arrested and later convicted of a double murder he did not commit. Without the presence of his parents or an attorney, he was threatened with the death penalty and told he would be taken to the county jail to get raped if he did not admit to the crime. The environment was very hostile while Daniel was interrogated for hours into the late night, the detectives threatened to keep him there until he told them what they wanted to hear. Even though Daniel knew he wasn’t responsible for the murders, terrified and wanting this process to end, he falsely confessed. Daniel went to trial in 1995 with his court appointed attorney, John Gates, who was given 60 days to prepare for trial. Mr. Gates was assigned a private investigator just 6 days before the trial. Unprepared, he went to trial, called one witness to the stand and failed to call 18 other defense witnesses, including Daniel’s alibis. Without any physical evidence or eye witnesses tying Daniel to this crime, the prosecution relied solely on his confession, which was full of impossible and false facts. Since the night after his interrogation, Daniel has always declared his confession was false and coerced by detective Al Marquez, a harsh and relentless interrogator. Nevertheless, after a three day trial, Daniel was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Our judicial system that guarantees us the right to a fair trial failed Daniel. He has now been in prison for 18 years.
    My name is John Mimbela and in the last five years I have spent well over $100,000 in Daniel’s attorney fees, private investigators, expert witnesses, and other expenses in seeking his release. I first hired a private investigator, Freddie Bonilla, who for the first time gave Daniel’s case a true investigation. After two years of investigating the case, Mr.Bonilla, an ex homicide detective of 20 years, concluded that there is no way that Daniel could have committed the crime. After researching Daniel’s case, Dr. Richard Leo, an expert on false confessions, and the Northwestern Law Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, also came to the same conclusion. Even Daniel’s attorney, John Gates, recently gave an affidavit stating that he was ineffective in representing Daniel. Also, after attending and hearing the overwhelming evidence in Daniel’s recent evidentiary hearings, evidence that was never presented in Daniel’s trial, Ben Hodge, the foreman of the jury that convicted Daniel, agrees that Daniel is innocent, deserves a new trial, and says he would have never voted to convict Daniel had this evidence been presented. Moreover, Daniel recently took a polygraph test and passed it with flying colors.
    In December of 2009, we filed a writ of Habeas Corpus, seeking relief for Daniel. Our DA, Jaime Esparza, who convicted Daniel, has vigorously continued to fight against the writ. We’re not pointing fingers at Mr. Esparza, I’m sure he never meant to convict an innocent man, but it happened. Exonerates and DNA has proven that our system isn’t perfect, but to try and preserve a wrongful conviction at any cost is wrong. Furthermore, the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure states “it shall be the primary duty of all prosecuting attorneys not to convict but to see that justice is done.” On August 16th, 2012, after ten days of hearings, our Honorable Judge Sam Medrano of the 409th district court of the El Paso County, in a 78 page decision, recommended to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that Daniel receive a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel and actual innocence! According to the National Law Journal, from 1989 through 2012 there were 1,050 exonerations won. On December 18, 2013 the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirm Honorable Judge Sam Medrano’s decision and set aside his conviction. Daniel should soon be the next innocent person exonerated. The bond hearing is set for January 14, 2014 and Daniel is expected to be released after 18 years in prison. A possible retrial will be pending.
    We want to thank Daniel’s attorneys, Joe Spencer, Josh Spencer, Louie Gutierrez, and John Mobbs. We’d also like to extend our gratitude to attorneys Laura Nirider, Josh Tepfer and Steve Drizin from Northwestern Law in Chicago, Ill. Additionally, we’d like to thank Mayor John Cook, Congressmen Sylvester Reyes, death row exonerates Anthony Graves and Juan Melendez, and exonerate Chris Ochoa for their support in our quest for justice.

    For more information on Daniel’s case please visit our website or email me at . Also stay tuned to NBC Dateline which will soon air the truth and reality of Daniel’s case.

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