Hearing To Determine Whether Villegas Case Goes To Higher Court

EL PASO, Texas - Daniel Villegas, who was convicted of murder and has been in prison nearly 18 years, is in the eve of a decision that can completely change his life.

Closing arguments in his writ hearing to determine if there is enough evidence for Judge Sam Medrano to recommend his case for review from a higher court are slated for Nov 10.

"If you don't get it now, you won't ever get it again. This is the only chance you've got, the only window to freedom," Villegas said.

Villegas maintains he was coerced into confessing to the shooting deaths of Armando Lazo and Robert England by then-police Detective Al Marquez. During testimony, Marquez said he did not force the confession.

"When this happened to me, it wasn't just to me. It happened to everyone around me. To my sister; when she got locked up, she was affected. My daughter was affected, my mother my dad, everyone in my family," said Villegas, who is currently being detained at the El Paso County Jail.

Since he's been in El Paso, his family can visit more often, but the prison doesn't allow for much interaction.

"It's not really close contact. You can't express yourself, you can't give out your true feelings. You have to hold all of that in. You can't be yourself. They were there for me the whole time, but at the same time, they don't know who I really am," said Villegas.

Villegas' attorney, Joe Spencer, hopes to open that window to freedom with new evidence. In a polygraph test that he said Villegas passed with flying colors, Villegas says he was coerced into confessing to the shooting deaths.

The polygraph scale, Spencer said, indicated Villegas was completely truthful. A -5 to 0 score indicates deception, a 0 to 5 score indicates it may be inconclusive, and a 6 and above is truthful. Villegas scored a 15, Spencer said.

Prosecutors maintain that Villegas had due process: two trials and a jury of his peers who convicted him.

But Spencer said a lot of evidence was not presented in either trial. For example, Spencer said, the same morning that Villegas confessed to the murders, he told an intake officer at the facility he was being held that he only admitted to the killings to get out of the situation. The confession occurred close to 3 a.m., and at 11 that same morning, Villegas said he didn't mean to confess.

"I wish this was a world of fantasy where we know right is right and wrong is wrong, and there's always going to be a happy ending at the end of the story. But in the real life, a lot of times that doesn't happen," Villegas said.

He said what he really wants is to get to know his 16-year-old daughter, who's the same age he was when he was accused of the killings.

Villegas said he wants, "To hold her. (To) be able to talk to her face-to-face. To try to get to know her, get passed the question and answer conversations, and get to the intimate ones where she can trust me. And she can actually call me Dad and actually say I love you, and mean it because she doesn't know me," he said.

Villegas said he has bad days when he loses hope.

"I get so frustrated, I can't even pray for justice. I just pray, 'let me go. Let me die. If you say you're a merciful God, just let me die. I'm tired of this life. Let me go and get out of here," he said.

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