1220-venue-love

Albert Leslie Love (pictured), charged in the same East Waco shootings as Rickey Cummings, could face the death penalty if convicted.

A defendant in Waco’s Lakewood Villas murder case will face trial in Williamson County after a judge approved a change-of-venue motion.

Attorneys for capital murder defendant Albert Leslie Love, 25, asked to move his trial from McLennan County, saying publicity surrounding the November trial of codefendant Rickey Donnell Cummings made it impossible for Love to get a fair trial.

State District Judge Ralph Strother granted the motion this week, which will move the trial to the Williamson County seat of Georgetown.

Strother, prosecutor Michael Jarrett, Love and defense attorney John Donahue each signed the order agreeing to the venue change.

“It’s an agreement in the sense that the state is not challenging the reasons that the defense gave,” Strother said. “I just think it’s in the interest of justice for everyone to grant the motion.”

District Attorney Abel Reyna declined to comment, and Love’s attorneys did not return messages.

Cummings, 23, was sentenced to death last month for 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 Lakewood Villas apartment complex.

Love, Kennedy Hardway and Darvis Cummings 
also are charged with capital murder in the ambush attack, which also wounded two men in the car’s front seat.

Love is the second defendant to face trial and, like Rickey Cummings, could face the death penalty if convicted.

In a motion filed Dec. 4, Love’s attorneys claimed publicity surrounded Cummings’ trial was “pervasive, prejudicial and inflammatory.”

“As a result, it is the contention of the defendant that there exists in McLennan County, Texas, so great a prejudice against him that he cannot obtain a fair and impartial trial in this county,” they wrote.

A spokeswoman for Reyna said no trial date had been set. But District Clerk Karen Matkin said jury selection is scheduled to begin March 22 in Williamson County and continue April 1 with questioning of individual jurors.

Strother said the March date is subject to change. The trial is expected to take five to seven weeks from the start of jury selection, he said.

“I am hopeful that since the change of venue has been granted that the selection process might go a little faster down there” compared with the Cummings trial, Strother said. “But that’s more hope than prediction at this point.”

Strother, who presided over Cummings’ trial, 
also will hear Love’s case, despite the venue change.

McLennan County plans to send its own personnel to handle the trial, including prosecutors, security officers, court staff and a member of the district clerk’s office.

Staff members have briefed the commissioners court about the increased costs associated with a venue change, including travel, lodging and meals for the defendant and county personnel.

Budget officer Adam Harry said Wednesday he still was gathering information to gauge the full cost of the move.

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