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Rickey Donnell CUMMINGS





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Retaliation
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: March 28, 2011
Date of arrest: April 1, 2011
Date of birth: August 23, 1989
Victims profile: Keenan "Lockie" Hubert, 20, and Tyus Sneed, 17
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Waco, McLennan County, Texas, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on November 13, 2012

photo gallery


Offender Information

Name; Cummings, Rickey Donnell
TDCJ Number: 999577
Date of Birth: 08/23/1989
Date Received: 11/13/2012
Age (when Received): 23
Education Level (Highest Grade Completed): 12
Date of Offense: 03/28/2011
Age (at the time of Offense): 21
County: McLennan
Race: Black
Gender: Male
Hair Color: Black
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 180
Eye Color: Brown
Native County: McLennan
Native State: Texas

Prior Occupation
Warehouse, Assembly Line Laborer

Prior Prison Record

Summary of Incident

Subject and two accomplices and two codefendants approached a vehicle with four adult males and shot the vehicle more than 20 times with various weapons. Two victims were shot eight times and pronounced dead at the scene. The other two victims ran off with the subject chasing them, but the gun jammed and they were not hit.

Albert Love and Diarvis Cummings

Race and Gender of Victim
Two black males

Texas Department of Criminal Justice


Rickey Cummings sentenced to death

By John Elizondo and Christine McCarthy -

November 7, 2012

WACO - A jury sentenced Rickey Cummings to death on Wednesday afternoon for the murders of Tyus Sneed and Keenan Hubert. The judge said Cummings' death will be by lethal injection, and an appeal for the decision is mandatory, with a court-appointed attorney for Cummings.

On Friday, the jury convicted Cummings of capital murder for the shooting at Waco's Lakewood Villas on March 28, 2011.

Before jurors left the courtroom on Wednesday, the judge thanked them for their service and the "heavy responsibility" they had.

In order to decide on the death penalty, the jurors had to answer yes to the first two special issues and no to the third. The first issue was whether or not Cummings is a threat to society. The second, did Cummings actually cause of the deaths of Hubert and Sneed or anticipate their deaths? The third question was whether or not any mitigating circumstance from evidence, Cummings' character or moral culpability warrants life in prison.

Attorney Russ Hunt Sr. asked Judge Strother to poll the jury after the sentencing; all jurors agreed they answered yes to the first two issues and no to the last, arriving at the death penalty.

More than a dozen law enforcement officials were in the courtroom for security, around and between the victims' and Cummings' families when the sentencing was announced. Judge Ralph Strother told the families to remain composed and that any outcries would require him to remove people from the courtroom.

Six people gave victim impact statements, including Hubert's and Sneed's fathers.

"I see you like tattoos. You like needles? You're going to have one waiting for you," said Hubert's father, Artie Matthews, referring to lethal injection.

"Do you know what it's like finding your own child riddled with bullets?" Sneed asked. "May God have mercy on your soul."

Marion Bible, who was wounded in the 2011 shooting, stared Cummings down and spoke to him.

"You messed up my whole life," Bible said, adding that he walks around Waco constantly watching his back, "I don't feel sorry for you. You didn't feel sorry for me."

The other shooting survivor, Deontrae Majors was working, so his mother read her son's statement.

"We wanted to grow old together, be fathers together," Majors wrote, of his best friend, Keenan Hubert.

Majors wrote that he can't sleep because he hears Hubert and Sneed screaming for their lives.

Hubert's cousin, Aphtan Daniella, showed Cummings a picture of Hubert's son, who wasn't even one year old when his father was killed.

"You're going to have to answer to God," Daniella said, calling him the son of the devil. "You're not a man. You're a coward."

Cummings shook his attorneys' hands, smiled slightly and told his family, "Don't cry."

"They convicted him, in my opinion, on 'He said, she said,'" Cummings' grandmother Erma Richards said.

"I knew today coming into this - I told my family, 'Be prepared, because I am. They're going to come back with the death penalty,'" Elma Richards, Cummings' mother said.

During the trial prosecutors argued Cummings thought Hubert had killed his friend Emuel "Man Man" Bowers III in a Waco park in 2010, and Cummings was seeking retaliation.

Three more men are awaiting their capital murder trials for their alleged roles in the shooting.


Cummings found guilty of capital murder; victims' families eye death penalty

By Tommy Whiterspoon -

November 2, 2012

A McLennan County jury rejected Rickey Donnell Cummings’ alibi that he was selling marijuana six blocks away when two men were gunned down in 2011 at the Lakewood Villas apartments, convicting him Friday of capital murder.

Cummings, 23, who told jurors Thursday he was not involved in the deaths, showed no reaction when 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother read the verdict.

The crowded courtroom heeded Strother’s instructions prohibiting displays of emotion or other outbursts.

Security has been tight throughout the nine-day trial, but officials ramped it up even more Friday. At least 14 law enforcement officers were present in the courtroom when the verdict was returned, including deputies standing in the aisle to separate the victims’ families and friends from Cummings’ family.

Seventeen officers were stationed in the courthouse rotunda and almost two dozen more from various agencies watched over the courthouse parking lot as the crowd poured into the street after the verdict.

Cummings is one of four men charged in the March 2011 shooting deaths of Tyus Sneed, 17, and Keenan Hubert, 20, as they sat in the back seat of a car at the Spring Street apartments.

Two others, Deontrae Majors and Marion Bible, who were in the front seat, were wounded in the ambush but managed to escape the car and flee.

The punishment phase of the trial begins at 8:30 a.m. Monday. Cummings faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

The jury deliberated about three hours before convicting Cummings, whom prosecutors called a “cold-blooded, ruthless killer.”

Hubert’s father, Artie Matthews, called Friday a “good day,” and said Cummings deserves the death penalty.

“We’ve got one down, three to go,” he said, referring to Cummings’ co-defendants. “I want death, nothing but. He deserves to die. He’s a coward.”

Russ Hunt Sr., who represents Cummings with Walter M. Reaves Jr. and Michelle Tuegel, said they are disappointed with the verdict.

“We feel terrible about it,” Hunt said. “We’ve gotten to know and like Rickey and we feel terrible about the verdict.”

Hunt said Cummings wanted to testify and he didn’t try to dissuade him.

“He wanted to tell his story. It was his story to tell,” Hunt said.

“Who wouldn’t want to tell their side of the story when their life is on the line?” Tuegel asked.

District Attorney Abel Reyna, who prosecuted the case with his two top assistants, Michael Jarrett and Greg Davis, declined comment after court recessed Friday afternoon.

Robert Earl Sneed, the father of Tyus Sneed, was visibly emotional as he made his way across Washington Avenue, wiping his eyes and taking several minutes to collect himself before speaking.

He described feeling disoriented and has said he suffers from depression and insomnia since his son’s death.

“I’m just sorry for everybody that’s involved,” he said. “It’s not going to bring him back . . . I’m just shook up right now.”

Sneed tightly hugged Bible, who testified last week about his narrow escape from the car where Hubert and Sneed were killed.

Cetha Sneed, Tyus’ 21-year-old sister, said the family was pleased with the verdict, but would be “more happy on Monday.”

“We’re halfway there to getting justice,” she said. “We really miss Tyus and Keenan.”

A somber group of Cummings’ family and friends did not linger in the parking lot after leaving the courthouse, and declined comment.

Closing summations

In closing summations, Jarrett told jurors that Cummings was a gang member and a remorseless killer who wanted Hubert dead but didn’t care who else got hurt or killed in the course of his mission.

Prosecutors said Cummings killed Hubert because he and others suspected that Hubert was involved in the April 2010 death of Emuel “Man Man” Bowers III, whom Cummings described as being as close to him as his brothers.

Jarrett likened Cummings to a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar, leaving crumbs behind and then trying to wash the evidence from his hands.

He said he tried to cover up his crimes by establishing a “BS” alibi and then intimidated witnesses in an effort to scare them from testifying against them.

“We are one community,” Jarrett told the jury. “We are not East Waco. We are not North Waco and we are not West or South Waco. We are one community, and I ask you to stand up with the community and tell Rickey Cummings exactly what he is. He is a murderer.”

Reaves told jurors that the state’s case is built on speculation, insinuation and misrepresentation. He disputed state contentions that Cummings was in a gang.

“The prosecution wants you to believe that young men who hang out together, have some signs and wear the same colors are a gang,” Reaves said. “That is not true. In another part of town, they call that a fraternity.”

Hunt said if symbols, signs, markings and Cummings’ tattoos, such as a five-sided star, are gang images, the Dallas Cowboys must be the Bloods gang.

Hunt attacked the credibility of the state’s witnesses, including a woman with a history of mental problems who said she saw Cummings with a jammed pistol in his hand seconds after the shooting at the apartment complex.


Jury finds Cummings guilty of capital murder

By Tommy Whiterspoon -

November 2, 2012

2:20 p.m.

About two dozen law enforcement officers stood watch in the parking lot as people poured from courthouse after the guilty verdict, the Trib's Kirsten Crow reports. There was lots of emotion evident in the crowd, but no incidents.

Robert Sneed, father of shooting victim Tyus Sneed, was very emotional in the parking lot following verdict. "I'm just sorry for everybody that's involved," he said.

A somber group in the parking lot believed to be friends and family of Cummings turned down interview requests.

1:28 p.m.

After three hours of deliberations, the jury found Rickey Donnell Cummings guilty of capital murder.

There was no reaction in the courtroom, or from Cummings. Security was tight with a dozen law enforcement officers in the courtroom and deputies in the aisle separating the families. There also was a heavy law enforcement presence in the courthouse rotunda.

The punishment phase will begin at 8:30 a.m. Monday. Cummings faces the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

He was led from the courthouse to jail after the verdict was read.

9:55 a.m.

Following the summation by prosecutor Greg Davis, the jury began deliberating the case.

In his closing, Davis said he would have fallen out of his chair if the defense had not claimed the state failed to prove its case.

He said the jury knows why the state did not produce the murder weapons — because Cummings and others ditched them.

Cummings lied through his teeth when he denied he was in a gang, Davis said. He added that the defense and Cummings rewrote history and state testimony in their version of events.

Davis said Cummings is a lot of things — ruthless, cunning — but he is not an innocent man.

"I believe he's intelligent, and that's what makes him dangerous," he said. "He's calculating. He's cold-blooded."

He said the defense spent so much time trying to discredit Nickoll Henry's credibility because her testimony was so damaging to Cummings.

Henry, who was wounded by a stray bullet that went through her apartment wall, said she saw Cummings with a jammed gun in his hand after the shootings.

Hubert might have contributed to his own death, Davis said, reminding jurors that Marion Bible said he saw Hubert say something to Cummings shortly before the shootings.

9:25 a.m.

Defense attorney Russ Hunt Sr. said there is "no gun, no DNA and no reliable eyewitness" in state's case.

He questioned the reliability and mental fitness of witness Nickoll Henry, who said she saw Cummings after the shooting holding a jammed pistol.

Hunt reminded the jury that Henry testified she is mentally ill, hears voices and has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Hunt downplayed tattoos, colors and hand signs that prosecutors say show Cummings is a gang member. He said if a five-sided star means someone is in a gang, the Dallas Cowboys must be Bloods gang members.

Hunt said there is nothing wrong trying to find out who killed his friend. That doesn't mean he retaliated against Hubert.

He tells jury they are the "gate keepers " preventing the state from running over an innocent man.     

9:10 a.m.

Defense attorney Walter M. Reaves Jr. said prosecutors want jury to believe young men who hang out together, have signs and colors is a gang. That is not true, he said.

In another part of town, they call it a fraternity, he said.

"There is absolutely no evidence that Rickey Cummings is a member of a gang, except what Mr. Jarrett told you," Reaves said. "They want to make this case about gangs, because people are scared of gangs."

He asks the jury to decide the case solely on the evidence, not speculation or misleading statements.

Reaves reminds jurors of their promise to give Cummings the presumption of innocence and to make the state prove case beyond reasonable doubt.

9 a.m.

Jarrett continues to summarize the prosecution's case, saying Albert Love stashed guns in nearby apartment. A witness saw men running with guns, including one with a rifle, before the shooting.

Trial evidence showed an AK-47-type weapon was used in the killings, along with handguns.

"Thank God they can't shoot straight," Jarrett said, or there would be two others killed in the incident.

Jarrett said Cummings wants to be known as a soldier, but he said he is a coward. The defendants' story that he was dealing dope when the shots were fired is "BS" and a "flat-out lie," Jarrett said.

After the shooting, Cummings texted someone, "get rid of the bullets," phone records show.

Jarrett says Waco is one community and he asked the jury to stand with the community and tell Cummings what he is. 

"He is a murderer," he said.  

8:40 a.m.

Prosecutor Michael Jarrett begins by saying all that is required for evil to prevail is for good people to sit back and do nothing. That is not the case here, he said.

Jarrett told the jury a story about a boy who stole a cookie and thought he cleaned all the crumbs off his fingers, but he forgot one on his cheek.

"Rickey Cummings got his hand caught in the cookie jar," he tells the jury. "Follow those cookie crumbs."

Jarrett said the whole thing started with the death of Emuel "Man Man" Bowers, a close friend of Cummings.

Bowers' friends and family were frustrated that no arrests had been made in Man Man's death, he said, so Cummings took matters into his own hand.

A witness said he heard Cummings say he was going to shoot somebody the night of the shootings, Jarrett said. That was his state of mind.

Witnesses saw Cummings shortly before the shooting at the apartment complex.


Prosecutors and defense attorneys for Rickey Donnell Cummings will give jury summations this morning before the jury begins deliberating the 23-year-old drug dealers fate.

Cummings is charged in the March 2011 shooting deaths of Tyus Sneed, 17, and Keenan Hubert, 20, at the Lakewood Villas apartments.

Often called final arguments, summations give lawyers a chance to summarize evidence and tell the jury what they think it all means. Judge Ralph Strother of 19th State District Court has given the lawyers on each side 40 minutes for summations.

The judge said the court will order Uncle Dan's barbecue so the jury will not have to separate for lunch after it receives the case for deliberation.

Several members of McLennan County District Attorney's office are crowded around a monitor in an office adjacent to the courtroom watching a live feed from the trial.

Cummings testified Thursday he was selling marijuana on East Clay Street at the time of the shootings and ran there after someone told him that a car matching the description of one his brother drove was involved in the shooting.

Cummings denied he was involved in the double slaying and that he has ties to the street gang the Bloods.

The jury should begin delilberating before noon.


Rickey Cummings testifies in his own capital murder trial

By Christine McCarthy -

November 1, 2012

WACO- Defendant Rickey Donnell Cummings took the stand for the first time in his capital murder trial on Wednesday morning, denying any involvement in the double murder at Waco's Lakewood Villas.

Keenan "Lockie" Hubert, 20, and Tyus Sneed, 17, were killed when gunfire sprayed the car they were sitting in on March 28, 2011. Marion Bible and Deontrae Majors were injured in the shooting on Spring St.

Cummings' defense team asked him about his friendship with Emuel "Man Man" Bowers, who was murdered in his car at a Waco park in 2010. The state has said Cummings thought Hubert had killed Bowers and Cummings murdered Hubert to get revenge for his slain friend.

Cummings admitted Bowers was like family but said he wasn't Bowers' very best friend. He said Albert Love's younger brother was closest to Bowers.

Albert Love is also being charged with capital murder in the Lakewood Villas shooting.

Cummings said, when he heard Bowers had been shot, he rushed to the park, took Bowers' pulse and called police.

"I found my brother dead," Cummings said of the moment when he got to the park. "I felt like my heart dropped to my feet."

Cummings testified he tried to figure out who killed Bowers but wasn't seeking retaliation for his murder.

The state had argued earlier in the trial that Cummings took Bowers' cell phone to try to investigate. On the stand, Cummings admitted he took the phone when it rang at the murder scene.

On March 28, 2011, the day of Hubert's and Sneed's deaths, Rickey Cummings testified he was at the Lakewood Villas visiting his grandmother. Then his brother Darvis picked him up and brought him to Carver St., because Rickey was having car problems. While they were gone the gunfire erupted, killing Hubert and Sneed, Rickey said.

Darvis Cummings is also facing a capital murder charge.

Rickey Cummings said he heard the victims' blue Grand Marquis looked like his other brother's, so he rushed back to make sure his brother wasn't hurt. While there, Cummings testified, he bumped into Lakewood Villas resident, Brittany Snell, whom he consoled because she was crying. Cummings claimed he went to her apartment, asked to use her bathroom and ran the water but realized there was no soap. So, Cummings said, he asked to use the dishwashing soap in the kitchen.

Cross-examining the defense's witness, shooting reconstruction expert, Edward Hueske, state prosecutors asked if Hueske would expect to find gunshot residue on a shooter's hands if he washed thoroughly with soap. Hueske answered no.

Rickey Cummings admitted to being armed, saying, "I don't want to be killed... I have a right to protect myself, my property and my family."

He also admitted he likes guns, adding, "I prefer a .45," referring to a .45-caliber handgun.

Rickey said he left that weapon in the back pouch of the front passenger seat of Darvis's car.

Witness Hueske said he didn't find any bullet holes in the Grand Marquis that matched such a gun. Hueske said about 12 bullet holes appeared to be shots from an AK- or SKS-style rifle. Almost all the shots seemed to come from the front of the car, with only two from a "side-on directionality," Hueske said.

Hueske conceded to state prosecutors, however, that there is no way of knowing who the shooter was, based on that evidence, or whether there was a shooter at the back of the car who missed their target.

When Hueske examined the car, tires, wheels and fenders were gone. He said those parts could have been hit by bullets from a smaller handgun.

Hueske also said recovered cartridge casings are not an "absolute indicator" of where the shots were fired, stating that casings could be kicked or moved.

Wednesday's testimony started late because a juror had written posts on Facebook about the trial. Judge Ralph Strother said the posts were not detailed facts about the trial but were still a violation. Strother warned the juror separately and the jury altogether not to write anything about the trial on social media sites or to text or email.

Strother said the juror was "contrite" and "very embarrassed," and she promised nothing on Facebook would affect her verdict.

Strother instructed the court to continue with the trial, but Wednesday's testimony was cut short before noon because a juror needed to attend a family member's funeral.

State prosecutors will cross-examine Rickey Cummings at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday.


Cummings takes stand, says he wasn't involved in murders

By Tommy Whiterspoon -

November 1, 2012

Rickey Cummings was on East Clay Avenue when the Lakewood Villas shootings occurred and he only returned to the apartment complex later that night because he feared his younger brother had been shot in the incident, he testified Wednesday.

Prosecutor Michael Jarrett will cross-examine Cummings when his capital murder trial resumes today at 8:30 a.m. Cummings is charged in Waco’s 19th State District Court in the March 28, 2011, shooting deaths of Tyus Sneed, 17, and Keenan Hubert, 20, who were killed in the back seat of a car at the Spring Street apartment complex.

Two other men who were in the front seat were wounded, but escaped what one called the “battlefield.”

Cummings, who said his name is spelled “Rickey,” not “Ricky” as it appears on court documents, admitted he routinely carries a gun for his and his family’s protection because he has been shot twice since 2006. But he denied killing Sneed and Hubert and denied affiliation with any street gangs.

Cummings said he had been to the Lakewood Villas to check on his grandmother and get some of her home cooking.

His car was not running right, so he said he called his brother, Darvis, to come pick him up and drop him off on East Clay Avenue the night of the shootings.

He said he left his .45-caliber pistol in Darvis’ car when he got out.

He got a call about the shootings later that night and the caller said men in a blue Mercury Marquis had been shot. Cummings said that matches the description of his younger brother’s car, so he went back to the apartments to make sure his brother had not been killed.

He said he got a ride away from the complex from his older brother, Tyrece Richards.

Witnesses have placed Cummings at the complex just before and after the shootings.

Woman’s account

One woman, who was struck in the leg by shrapnel from a stray bullet that went through her apartment wall, testified she saw Cummings standing in her doorway with a jammed pistol in his hand.

She said he was trying to clear the weapon and she shut her door and locked it.

Prosecutors have said that Cummings killed Hubert and Sneed in retribution for what he thought to be Hubert’s involvement in the April 2010 shooting death of Cummings’ friend, Emuel “Man Man” Bowers III at Hood Street Park.

Cummings said he was a few blocks away when he got word that Bowers had been shot. He rushed to the scene and saw his friend dead in the car, he said.

“I checked his pulse. He was gone. I (looked) right into his eyes,” Cummings said. “I felt like I lost my brother. I still hurt about it to this day.”

Cummings took Bowers’ cellphone from his car, he said, not intending to retaliate against his killer, but to try to find clues to who might have done it.

He talked about what an emotional experience it was for him at Bowers’ funeral, where all his friends wore matching red shirts with military markings and “Combat” written on the pocket.

Hand symbols

He denied that the red colors or the signs some flashed in the photos from the funeral had anything to do with gang affiliation.

He said the three-finger gesture forming an E signifies “East Waco,” the area of town they are from. Those symbols are common with young people, Cummings said, and don’t have anything to do with gangs.

He said even the preacher at Bowers’ service unzipped his robe to show he was wearing one of the red shirts.

At one point, Bowers family members developed a few suspects who might have killed “Man Man,” and Cummings and Hubert were on the short list, he said.

“That was like adding insult to injury for me,” Cummings said. “He was my brother. I loved him. I was hurting, too.“

Later, Bowers’ mother apologized for suspecting him and they reconciled, he said.

Besides Cummings’ many tattoos of the number 5 and five-sided stars that prosecutors have suggested represent gang symbols, Cummings said he has a mural of tattoos of “Man Man” on his back.

A witness said Cummings “mean mugged” Hubert in the car that night shortly before the shooting, but Cummings denied the characterization.

He said he only met Sneed once and he had no problem with Hubert.


Lawyer fights for client's life

October 27, 2012

"These death sentences are cruel and unusual in the same way that being struck by lightning is cruel and unusual...” Mr. Justice Potter Stewart, U.S. Supreme Court

Waco – A very special audience of 6 men and 7 women are witnessing an exclusive tournament of legal jousting in a local district courtroom.

Though executions of convicted capital murderers have become routine in Texas, ordinary items in the routine of unremarkable news days, this is the first time in 8 years a McLennan County jury has heard a capital murder case.

The key elements of conservative legal thinking on the death penalty are on full display for the 12 jurors and one alternate at the capital murder trial of one of four accused gangster gunmen who allegedly shot down two rivals in a surprise attack to avenge the shooting death of an associate nearly one year earlier.

The opposing counsel carry out their strategy with similar methods of surprise.

For instance, prosecutors suddenly and unexpectedly rested their case early in the day Friday.

The trial will resume Tuesday after 19th Criminal District Court Judge Ralph T. Strother, who said he was just as surprised as the defense team, gave the attorneys some time to prepare their case.

Walter Reaves, co-counsel for the defense, said the move was totally unexpected and caught the defense team of three seasoned attorneys completely by surprise. Mr. Reaves is involved in other cases with the Innocence Project run by New York attorney Barry Scheck, which often clears men falsely accused and convicted of crimes they did not actually commit, by using DNA analysis.

Lead defense attorney Russ Hunt, Sr., is a member of the State Bar College of defense counselors who promulgate the continuing education program for lawyers who defend criminal defendants.

Prosecutors led by Michael Jarrett, delivered a classic right jab, left cross and right uppercut combination when they presented the testimony of a woman who claims to have seen one of the murder weapons – an assault rifle – and a fearful young man who said he heard the defendant, Ricky Cummings, say he was about to shoot someone.

A retired Dallas police detective who is now a custodian of telephone records presented evidence of cell phone calls and text messages sent and received at the time of the March 28, 2011, shooting ambush that left two men dead and two others severely wounded at Lakeside Villas apartments in east Waco.

Yet another witness testified earlier that an uncle of the accused gunman threatened her, an offense for which the man is languishing in the McLennan County Jail. The following morning, she found her tires slashed when she made ready to come to the courthouse and give her testimony.

Tensions are running high between two extended families of African-Americans who are forced to sit on opposite sides of the courtroom, prohibited from carrying cell phones for fear they might take pictures of jurors in an effort to intimidate them, and constantly surveilled for signs of impending hostility.

In the midst of all this drama, the rival prosecution and defense teams are engaged in the sweet science of the joust, the boxing ring and the debate, that of keeping the opponent off balance and moving in reaction to an aggressive game of proactive attack and thrust, parry and blockade.

At the heart of the matter, a peculiarly Texan conservative philosophy that swift and sure retribution is the single greatest deterrent to vicious and violent behavior that leads to the murder of public officials, children, more than one person at a time, or committed for profit, with premeditation, or in retaliation.

The Texas track record speaks for itself. Since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a reinstatement of the death penalty as other than cruel and unusual punishment in 1976 when it handed down Gregg v. Georgia, Texas has executed by lethal injection more than 480 convicted murderers, while the much more populous state of California has carried out the death penalty only 13 times.

Many legal scholars point out that not only is the entire top tier of Texas appeals courts decidedly Republican and politically conservative, but the United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which sits at New Orleans, is much more Republican and conservative than that of the 9th Circuit at San Francisco. Republicans have occupied the Governor's office since the year 2000, when President George W. Bush unseated liberal Democrat Ann Richards in a landslide victory before going on to the White House.

Nearly the entire first day of evidence and testimony presented on Monday, October 22, concerned another crime, the shooting death of Emuel Lee Bowers, III, which occurred in April of 2010.

Prosecutors sought to get into the record evidence that the motive for the offense for which the first of the four defendants is facing the death penalty was retaliation for the earlier killing of another victim.

The defense team did not protest as to its relevance. Seasoned defense lawyers in close observation of the trial were of the united opinion that Mr. Hunt chooses not to cloud the issues or confuse the jurors with ill feelings over constant objections, preferring to remain calm and sanguine in the best interest of his client, whose life depends on a single impression yet to be created in the minds of the jury.

The question at hand, should they find “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Ricky Cummings caused the death of two human beings, is if he would present “a continuing threat to society” if he is allowed to live the remainder of his life behind bars without the possibility of parole.

Society, each juror was assured during the jury selection phase of the trial, includes corrections officials, civilian staff members, and other inmates of the Texas Department of Corrections Institutional Division.

To comply with the Supreme Court decision, Texas juries who recommend the death penalty are required to answer two questions in the jury charge prepared for the punishment phase of capital cases in exactly this way, and no other.

According to an on-line discussion of the matter: The first question is whether there exists a probability the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a "continuing threat to society". "Society" in this instance includes both inside and outside of prison; thus, a defendant who would constitute a threat to people inside of prison, such as correctional officers or other inmates, is eligible for the death penalty.

The second question is whether, taking into consideration the circumstances of the offense, the defendant's character and background, and the personal moral culpability of the defendant, there exists sufficient mitigating circumstances to warrant a sentence of life imprisonment rather than a death sentence.

If the person was convicted as a party, the third question asked is whether the defendant actually caused the death of the deceased, or did not actually cause the death of the deceased but intended to kill the deceased, or "anticipated" that a human life would be taken.

In order for a death sentence to be imposed, the jury must answer the first question 'Yes' and the second question 'No' (and, if convicted as a party, the third question 'Yes'). Otherwise the sentence is life in prison.

Russ Hunt laid back and waited to make his move until prosecutors elicited testimony from the first eye witness to testify that she saw the defendant at the scene of the murders, gun in hand, struggling to clear a jammed spent cartridge casing from its firing chamber as he confronted her face to face in pursuit of two wounded men who had fled into her apartment, bleeding.

Mr. Hunt began his cross examination of Nickoll Henry, who suffered a grazing bullet wound to her leg when a round from a high-powered assault weapon penetrated the brick wall of her apartment where she lay dozing on a couch, by quizzing her about her record of past convictions for theft by credit card and aggravated assault.

She is court-ordered to psychiatric treatment for paranoid schizophrenia and post traumatic stress disorder, as are her children. She neglected to testify as to her treatment for borderline personality disorder, he pointed out.

At that point, Mr. Jarrett, who was lead prosecutor at Dallas County and at ultra-conservative Williamson County, bounced out of his chair as if it had become red hot. He objected that the testimony was irrelevant and prohibited by the Texas Rules of Criminal Evidence.

After two brief hearings out of the presence of the jury, Judge Strother allowed the testimony into the record exclusive of the facts of Ms. Henry's mental diseases and the exact nature of the revocation of her probation status on suspended sentences for theft and assault.

Once testimony resumed, Mr. Jarrett asked on redirect, “Ms. Henry, how long have you been treated for blindness?”

Exasperated, she thought hard for a moment, then said she is not under treatment for blindness, that's she's never been blind, to the uproarious laughter of the gallery.

Even the judge smiled.

The only persons present in the courtroom who did not break a smile were jurors. They sat stone-faced, taking it all into consideration, knowing the task before them won't be made any easier by their laughter.

One would have been hard-pressed to even glance at the visage of Ricky Cummings, a man fighting to get a chance to live out the rest of his life behind bars.


Gangland shootings a cowardly shot in the back

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Waco – The fusillade that penetrated the walls of an east Waco apartment, grazed a woman's leg and traumatized two small children for life was actually a cowardly attack on four men who were hemmed in, sitting in a car, shot like fish in a barrel.

The two men who were killed were shot in the back, according to the testimony of a forensic pathologist from the Southwest Institute of Forensic Science.

When death found Tyus Sneed, the bullets ripped into the tissue of his back and shoulder and exited the right side of his neck, severing the aorta.

According to Dr. Jill Urban, the longest a person with such a wound could have lived would have been less than a minute.

Though she could not offer any conclusion as to which wound came first, the most horrible to behold was the left to right shot that shattered his upper jaw, ripping into his lips and leaving his mouth a bloody mass of destroyed teeth that looked as though they were piano keys ripped from the instrument and shoved over an octave or two.

Color pictures of his ruined body showed to jurors and his family on an overhead projector depicted Mr. Sneed reclining on the autopsy table, his mouth shot away, hands bagged awaiting testing for gunshot residue to determine if he happened to return the withering fire that cut him down, and a blank stare on his bewildered face.

In all, he suffered 8 bullet wounds, as did his companion in the death seat, Keenan Huber.

Both men were spun from left to right in a spiraling pattern that followed the path of the bullets, as the shooters hosed them down from the left rear quarter panel of the car after the initial frontal attack.

Mr. Huber also suffered a through and through wound that entered the top right side of his back and exited the base of his throat. Another bullet pierced the right side of the upper back and plowed through the lung. Yet another severed his aorta and destroyed his left lung.

Because the bullets are spinning when they rip into human flesh, the doctor explained, they cause huge, ugly mushrooming exit wounds that may vary far and wide from what would be a linear path through the body. A small and surgical looking round hole a bullet made on the inside of a bicep has shattered the humerus bone of the upper arm, leaving a fluted and pulpy pyramid of ruined flesh in the middle of a well-developed young man's arm.

As he fell, Mr. Huber appears to have thrown his left hand up to cover his face and two bullets ripped into it, one making a hole through and through, the other neatly clipping off the index fingertip.

Toxic screening of body fluids revealed only the active ingredient THC and broken down chemicals from marijuana. Neither man had been drinking alcohol or using other drugs, according to test results.

Long dowels looking like bizarre spears or arrows made mannequins look like some kind of bizarre porcupines seated on top of the prosecution counsel table so jurors could see the devastating effects of the merciless firing squad.

All members of the public have been prohibited from carrying cell phones into the third floor of the McLennan County Courthouse. Judge Ralph T. Strother gave the order because of the concern expressed by jurors that misguided persons might take photographs of them and use them to possibly locate them and seek revenge.

Any person not a representative of the news media who is caught with a cell phone on the third floor of the courthouse will be ejected from the building and their phone confiscated, the judge said.

Presentation of evidence and testimony will resume again on Friday morning at 8:30 a.m.


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