After spending more than four years in the McLennan County Jail, it appears Todric Deon McDonald soon will be getting his day in court.
As of Thursday’s pretrial hearing for McDonald, the 32-year-old capital murder defendant had been in the county jail 1,722 days awaiting trial. His trial in the May 2014 shooting deaths of cousins Justin Javier Gonzalez and Ulysses Gonzalez at the Pecan Tree Apartments, 2600 Grimm Ave., is set to start Feb. 11.
Prosecutors announced more than three years ago they would seek the death penalty in the case. However, they since have changed their minds, announcing in August they had taken the death penalty off the table, meaning if McDonald is convicted of capital murder, he faces an automatic sentence of life in prison with no parole.
Judge Ralph Strother has set jury selection to start Feb. 11. Testimony should start the next day, the judge said during Thursday’s brief hearing involving prosecutor Hilary LaBorde and McDonald’s defense team, John Donahue and Jon Evans.
The hearing involved mostly last-minute discovery issues, including discussion of a firearm, ammunition and projectiles that are still being tested by a defense expert but should be done in time for trial.
Donahue also asked LaBorde to clarify which among 50 hours of recorded jail phone conversations the state plans to use in evidence against McDonald. LaBorde said she has narrowed it down to portions of 30 to 40 phone calls, each lasting 15 minutes, that she and fellow prosecutors Robert Moody and Evan O’Donnell plan to introduce, and she gave copies to Donahue.
Evans asked the judge if parties in the case are still under a court-issued gag order, preventing them from discussing the case with the media. Strother said his order is still in effect.
McDonald also has a number of other felony and misdemeanor cases pending against him, including two counts of aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, endangering a child, assault-family violence, unlawful possession of a firearm, indecent exposure, assault on a public servant, retaliation and evading arrest or detention.
A status conference in the capital murder case of McDonald’s co-defendant, Tony Olivarez, 34, is set for Feb. 22 in Waco’s 54th State District Court. No trial date has been set in Olivarez’s case.