WACO (November 7, 2012)---After four hours of deliberations, jurors decided on the death penalty Wednesday for Rickey Donnell Cummings, 23, of Waco, who was convicted of capital murder in a shooting that left two dead and two injured.
McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna said prosecutors are pleased with the verdict.
“Also, we are pleased that we were able to achieve justice for the families of Tyus Sneed and Keenan Hubert as well as Marion Bible and Deontrae Majors,” he said.
“Rickey Cummings’ pattern of escalating violence and brutality were choices that he made. This jury’s verdict sends a strong message that violence in McLennan County will be met with firm justice and the upmost consequences,” he said.
Law enforcement officers filled the courtroom after the jury notified State District Judge Ralph Strother they had reached a decision.
Officers also assembled outside the courthouse.
Jurors began deliberations at around 10:20 a.m. Wednesday and sent out the note to the judge at around 2:20 p.m.
On Friday the jury found Cummings guilty in a March 2011 shooting at the Lakewood Villas apartment complex that left Keenan Hubert, 20, and Tyus Sneed, 17, dead, and Marion Bible, then 22, and Deontrae Majors, then 20, wounded.
Prosecutors say the shooting was in retaliation for the April 2010 murder of Emuel Bowers III, 21, who was shot as he sat in his car at the intersection of Rose and McKeen Streets.
In closing arguments Wednesday morning, Reyna told the jury, "By committing these acts, Ricky Cummings has forfeited his life". Do your job and make the right decision.
"He doesn’t strike like others, he strikes more violently,” Reyna said.
"Look at his history,” Reyna said.
“He starts with threats and escalates to more aggressive violence into our schools then to a nightclub then to killing Tyeus Sneed and Keenan Hubert"
“He was given a light sentence on every offense time after time and now is the time to give him the right one,” Reyna said.
Defense attorneys pressed for a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole in hopes of keeping Cummings off death row.
“This is probably the most important decision you've ever made or ever will make.” Attorney Walter “Skip” Reaves told jurors.
“The death penalty is not required in any case. In fact the presumptive sentence is life without parole,” he said.
“No matter what you do we can never bring Tyus Sneed and Keenan Hubert back,” he said.
“Executing Ricky Cummings won't do that.”
Tuesday the defense called seven witnesses as they tried to make the case for a life sentence for Cummings, but one of the seven wasn’t allowed to testify.
After more than 40 minutes of arguments outside of the presence of the jury, State District Judge Ralph Strother upheld a prosecution objection to the testimony of mitigation expert Amy Nguyen, who conducted a study that shows the risk factors of the area in which Cummings grew up.
Prosecutors argued she wasn’t an expert in the area and that she never interviewed anyone in Cummings’ family and the judge agreed that her testimony would not have been reliable.
Five of the defense witnesses who did take the stand were members of Cummings’ family, including his grandmother, Erma Richards, who testified she doesn't believe Cummings committed the murders.
"I'd do anything in my power for little Ricky to get life," she said. "In my heart, I don't feel he did it."
Strother admonished her, saying the issue no longer is guilty but punishment.
Annette Wilkerson, Cummings' aunt, testified that the picture prosecutors painted of Cummings is of another person.
Cummings' cousin Jarrett Embrey, of Rockdale, testified that while growing up he and Cummings "wanted to play ball, get girls and look fresh."
"I think he deserves a chance at living," Embrey said.
Another aunt, Ruby Brown, said Cummings was a respectful child when he was growing up and enjoyed a loving family.
On cross-examination she said she was not aware of any problems Cummings had with the law or that he was suspected of selling drugs.
Brittany Haynes, the mother of Cummings’ son, testified Cummings was a good father who loved his son, but under cross-examination, prosecutors established that Cummings once threatened her and prosecutors provided a police report to prove the incident.
Haynes also admitted after the incident she left Waco and moved to another city where she severed her ties with Cummings.
The final witness called by the defense was retired Texas Department of Criminal Justice official Frank Aubuchon, who testified that if Cummings is sentenced to life, he will be classified as a member of the Bloods gang because of his tattoos and will be held under high security.
Prosecutors made their case Monday for why Cummings should be sentenced to death, presenting testimony from witnesses who recounted Cummings’ violent history.
The state's last witness Monday, Richard Baldwin, testified he was sent to Club Legacy, the old Waco Water Works, on Nov. 2, 2008, after a report of a man with a gun.
Baldwin, who then was a Waco police officer but now works at Montana State University, said when he arrived at Club Legacy there were perhaps a thousand people crowded into the parking lot.
He said members of the crowd had Cummings pinned to the ground, holding him until officers could take him into custody.
Baldwin testified once the officers had placed Cummings in handcuffs and into the back of a patrol car, they returned to the area where he was being held down and found a holster and a .40-caliber handgun that Cummings had thrown under another car.
Cummings was arrested and charged with unlawfully carrying a weapon, Baldwin said.
Also Monday afternoon, Megan Sanders testified that when she and her then boyfriend were in high school Cummings came up to them while they were waiting for a bus and struck her boyfriend in the face.
Sanders said the attack was unprovoked.
Cummings at the time was a senior at Waco High School and the victim, Toylin Clark, was a sophomore.
Earlier Monday jurors heard testimony about violent incidents that occurred when Cummings attended public schools in Waco.
Two former educators and the former chief of the Waco ISD campus police force testified about an incident in December 2003 at G.L. Wiley Middle School that occurred after Cummings was found on the campus, escorted off and told to stay away.
He returned and when confronted, the witnesses testified, he resisted as officers tried to subdue and arrest him.
One of the teachers testified that Cummings told him, "You're lucky I don't have a gun with me or I'd shoot you."
Waco Police Detective Joe Williams testified about in incident in July 2005 in which Cummings attacked his grandmother's disabled husband.
Cummings was arrested for assault and family violence after the attack, Williams testified.
A former assistant principal at Waco High School told jurors that Cummings was involved in assaults once as a ninth grader and twice when in twelfth grade, for which he was suspended and sent to alternative school.
Then a special education teacher who handled alternative school students testified that Cummings had a bad reputation and said she was afraid to have her