A prosecutor says two men convicted of capital murder in Dallas County 12 years ago are expected to be released from prison this week after another man confessed to the crime.
Two men entered a residence in the 4600 block of Hopkins Street in Dallas and robbed and shot Alfonso Aguilar on April 7, 1997. Aguilar died from a gun shot wound to the chest.
Claude Simmons Jr., 54, and Christopher Scott, 39, were tried and convicted of capital murder that same year, and both received life sentences.
Dallas County assistant prosecutor Mike Ware said Wednesday that another man confessed to the crime in a sworn statement from prison last summer. Ware runs the Conviction Integrity Unit for District Attorney Craig Watkins.
Alonzo Hardy, 49, has been in prison since 1999 serving a 30-year sentence for an unrelated aggravated robbery that occurred a year after Aguilar's murder.
Hardy's alleged accomplice, Don Michael Anderson, 40, was arrested Tuesday night in the Houston area, according to Ware. Anderson will be charged with capital murder.
“The hard work and cooperation between DPD and the District Attorney’s office have made this possible,” Watkins said. “This is a huge step forward for justice. Two innocent men will be exonerated for capital murder, and the two guilty parties are finally being brought to justice. DPD and its Cold Case Unit are to be commended for their willingness to take a fresh look at what had been a closed case.”
The University of Texas at Arlington's Innocence Network also played a role. Assistant professor John Stickels said he and the students researched old court documents and court transcripts and interviewed people associated with the case to help the district attorney make a decision.
"Cases like this are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to have a good feeling about everything and do the right thing," Stickels said.
Stickels said six students led by Natalie Ellis, a criminal justice major, worked hard on the case. Ellis said the case was difficult because there was no DNA evidence to test.
"What if I'm the last hope that they have? What if I don't do my best job, and I put this case down and I walk away from it, and they really were innocent? I think that has to be the motivation," Ellis said.
Dallas County leads the nation in DNA exonerations.