Former condemned murderer Albert Leslie Love Jr. has a decision to make: Does he want the same attorneys who represented him at trial four years ago to do so again, can his family hire a lawyer for an expensive death penalty case or does he want the court to appoint him new attorneys for his retrial?
Love, 30, made his first court appearance Friday since the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his capital murder conviction and death sentence in December. He has been back in the McLennan County Jail since May 2.
Love was sentenced to death after a trial in Williamson County in the March 2011 shooting deaths of Keenan Hubert, 20, and Tyus Sneed, 17, at the Lakewood Villas apartment complex, 1601 Spring St.
The Court of Criminal Appeals, in a 6-3 opinion, ruled that Love deserves a new trial because his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when Waco police seized the contents of his text messages without a search warrant, which were then used by prosecutors at his trial.
In a motion for rehearing rejected by the Court of Criminal Appeals in April, prosecutors argued that Waco police officers were relying on what they understood the law to be at the time and exhibited a “good-faith belief” that warrants were not necessary for the cellphones.
Now Love’s case has been returned to 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother’s court for a new trial.
Strother told Love on Friday during a brief hearing that he has the option of having John Donahue and Jon Evans re-appointed to represent him again or have other attorneys appointed to represent him.
Love said his family is exploring the possibility of hiring an attorney for him, which the judge said would be OK, too.
“You can hire any lawyer that has a bar card,” Strother told Love.
The difference between hiring a lawyer and having one appointed at county expense is that Love has the option of choosing anyone he wants if his family intends to pay for his representation. If the judge were to appoint attorneys, they would come from a court-approved list of attorneys qualified to handle capital cases.
Love conferred with Donahue and Evans for a bit in private Friday and asked the judge for more time to consult with his family over the decision. The judge set another status conference in the case for June 23.
Donahue and Evans are in a bit of a touchy situation. While Love went to death row after the trial, Donahue and Evans did not file his appeal. They did object to the introduction of the text messages, which, in effect, got his conviction overturned.
However, another of Love’s attorneys alleged in an application for writ of habeas corpus that Donahue and Evans provided ineffective assistance of counsel, a common claim in writs.
So if Love agrees to allow Donahue and Evans to represent him again, he would have to assure the court those are his true wishes because of the writ allegations.
After the hearing, Donahue estimated it would cost $500,000 to hire an attorney in a death penalty case because the attorney, besides charging for his time, would have to pay for expert witnesses, an investigator and other expenses.
2019 retrial possible
The judge said that between his normal docket and trying cases arising out of the Twin Peaks shootout, it could be 2019 before Love is tried again.
Love’s trial was moved to Georgetown because the trial of his co-defendant, Rickey Donnell Cummings, was held first in Waco. The appeals court affirmed Cummings’ conviction.
Rickey Cummings, like Love, is a member of the Bloods gang. He was sentenced to death in 2012 for his role in the double slaying.
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 out of revenge because they thought he killed their best friend, Emuel “Man Man” Bowers III, at East Waco Park the year before.
Prosecutors introduced Love’s cellphone records, which included 37 pages showing the contents of about 1,600 text messages.
A message was sent to Bowers’ mother shortly after the attack that said, “mission accomplished.” Later, after Rickey Cummings was arrested, Love sent a text to his former girlfriend saying, “hide the guns.”
Trial testimony showed Bowers’ mother, Shelia Bowers, was upset at the pace of the Waco police investigation into her son’s murder.