El Paso, Texas - For 36-year-old Daniel Villegas, the words of the NBC drama "Life" ring aptly true: "Life is what they took from him, and life is what he got back." At the time of his relief, Villegas was had served 20 years of a life sentence for the drive by killing of teenagers Armando Lazo, 17, and Robert England, 18, back in 1993. The appellate court recently vacated the conviction.
"I never thought this day would come. Thank God," Villegas, 37, said after hugging and kissing his parents
"It's been a struggle," John Mimbela, an El Paso businessman who helped finance much of Villegas' appeal, told the L.A. Times. "We could make history."
Upon his arrest, police had no physical evidence linking him to the crimes. Villegas' life sentence largely resulted from his incriminating confession to the shootings, which he says police coerced out of him. It didn't take him long to recant the testimony, but the damage was done. He was found guilty of the double-homicide.
He's not entirely out of the woods at this time. The local prosecutor is still deciding whether to retry the case. For now, District Court Judge Sam Medrano ordered his release on a $50,000 bond. The exact terms of his bond condition are not known. Nor is it clear if he'll have grounds to sue the state for his imprisonment if they drop all charges. As per Villegas' attorney, his client's first stop was at a local church to thank God for his deliverance.
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Texas man free on bond after murder conviction is overturned