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Friday, December 20, 2013 - 3:14pm
El Paso, TX (KDBC) — Daniel Villegas will spend another Christmas behind bars, as well as his 37th birthday on January 4th.
During a bond hearing Friday for convicted murderer Daniel Villegas, Judge Sam Medrano said he did not have the authority to release Villegas on bond because the mandate from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had not yet issued the mandate.
Daniel has been in jail since 1995 when he was convicted in a double murder in Northeast El Paso that happened in 1993.
Defense Attorney Joe Spencer, Villegas' attorney, said it would be issued would be January 13th, but he would try to expedite it.
The Court of Criminal Appeals released a unanimous opinion Wednesday that Villegas should get a new trial. Judge Medrano made the recommendation more than a year ago.
Spencer said the mandate is only a formality, and that District Attorney Jaime Esparza's office could have filed a joint motion asking for the mandate to be issued instantly that would have released Villegas out on bond.
"The District Attorney's office has the ability to agree to a bond. They had that ability over a year ago," said Spencer.
District Attorney Jaime Esparza responded to Spencer's comments in a phone interview and said Judge Medrano had no jurisdiction. Esparza said there was no request from Spencer to meet before the bond hearing to reach an agreement on bond. However, Esparza said even if they had agreed on a bond, it would still have had to go to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
In an exclusive phone interview with Daniel moments after hearing the decision, he said he remains hopeful despite the decision.
"I am disappointed, but the way I'm looking at it now is instead of just thinking I'm not going to be here for Christmas, I'm thinking of it like, 'This is my last Christmas here,'" Daniel said, and added, "after doing 19 years, another 30 days isn't much time."
Daniel's mother, Yolanda Villegas, was one of several of Daniel's family members and friends who were crying in the courtroom.
"I was sad, but once I saw him, I felt way better. He was so positive," said Yolanda Villegas.
There is still a chance Daniel's case could go to trial for a third time. The first was a mistrial, and he was convicted in the second. If it does go to trial, Spencer said he is ready.
"I don't know that there's any evidence to retry him with. There wasn't much evidence the first time they tried him," said Spencer.
Esparza said his office will have to review the evidence in the nearly 20-year-old case before making a decision about whether or not they will pursue a retrial.