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State seeks delay in retrial of 2011 Waco capital murder case

State seeks delay in retrial of 2011 Waco capital murder case

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Albert Leslie Love Jr. spent three years and five months on death row before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his capital murder conviction and death sentence.

Since then, Love, 38, has been in the McLennan County Jail waiting for his retrial for four years and four months, and his incarceration has cost the county at least $135,912. Love’s trial, along with those of hundreds of others waiting in the county jail for their day in court, has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which effectively shut down the court system for 15 months.

But as officials devised protocols to safely conduct trials again, Waco’s judges have placed priorities on trial dates for defendants who have been jailed the longest. McLennan County District Attorney Barry Johnson has said his office spent that COVID-19 down time preparing its cases for trial so they would be ready once more court operations resumed.

Love has had two trial settings since his conviction was reversed in December 2016. The first was postponed because one of his attorneys, Ariel Payan, had health issues. Jury selection currently is set to begin Oct. 22, with testimony starting Oct. 25.

However, on Monday, Johnson’s office, which previously abandoned its intent to seek another death penalty against Love, filed a motion asking 19th State District Judge Thomas West to postpone Love’s trial.

West, who already has said he would look unfavorably on any more continuance motions in Love’s case, has set a hearing for Friday to consider the state’s request and other matters.

The motion, filed by prosecutors Nelson Barnes and Anthony Smith, seeks the postponement because the DA’s office is getting updated analysis of cellphone data and DNA and gunshot residue tests performed on clothing items and ammunition. The state has asked the forensic labs to expedite the test results, but the motions says it could take from 30 to 90 days to complete.

The motion says the items have not been tested for DNA or gunshot residue before.

Love was convicted and sentenced to death in the March 2011 shooting deaths of Keenan Hubert, 20, and Tyus Sneed, 17, at the former Lakewood Villas apartment complex, 1601 Spring St. Since his return to McLennan County, Love has rejected offers from prosecutors to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Love now faces an automatic sentence of life without parole if convicted a second time.

Barnes said Tuesday that he could not speak specifically about pending cases, but said “the need for new testing has become relevant during trial preparation.”

He said previous trial delays were caused by the defense.

“This is not just us,” he said.

Love’s first trial was moved to Georgetown because Love’s co-defendant, Rickey Donnell Cummings, was tried first in Waco. Cummings has been on death row since 2012.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals awarded Love a new trial after ruling 6-3 that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when Waco police seized the contents of his text messages without a search warrant and Strother allowed prosecutors from former District Attorney Abel Reyna’s office to use the messages at his trial.

Rickey Cummings’ younger brother, D’Arvis Cummings, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in September 2014. He pleaded guilty to murder as a party to the ambush slayings.

Deontrae Majors and Marion Bible, who were in the front seat of the car Hubert and Sneed were in when they were killed, were wounded in the attack but managed to escape.

Testimony from both trials showed Cummings and Love wanted to kill Hubert because they thought he killed their best friend, Emuel “Man Man” Bowers III, at East Waco Park the year before.

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