WACO (November 2, 2012)—A Waco jury returned a guilty verdict Friday afternoon in the capital murder trial of Ricky Donnell Cummings, who was charged in a deadly double murder.
Cummings appeared stunned by the verdict and members of both his and the victims' families wept quietly.
Jurors deliberated for about three hours before returning the verdict Friday.
They now must decide whether Cummings should be executed for the murders or sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The trial was recessed until Monday when the punishment phase will begin.
On word the jury had reached a verdict, all Waco police officers in the downtown area were directed to head to the area of the courthouse.
Additional sheriff’s deputies were also sent to the courthouse where security was already tight Friday in anticipation of the verdict in a trial in which emotions have run high inside and outside the courtroom.
Fifteen uniformed and plainclothes officers filled the courtroom before the jury returned to announce the verdict and McLennan County Sheriff Larry Lynch was among the officers patrolling the courthouse halls.
The officers in the courtroom moved into the center aisle, positioned about two feet apart, just before the jury was escorted in.
State District Judge Ralph Strother told spectators he knew it was a tense moment and said he would tolerate no outbursts and would clear the courtroom if there were any.
Jurors left the courtroom at 9:54 a.m. Friday to begin deliberations after hearing closing arguments from the prosecution and defense.
If jurors find Cummings guilty, then they must decide whether he is sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Prosecutor Greg Davis closed out the arguments Friday morning by pointing at Cummings and calling him a cold and ruthless murderer.
“We have proved beyond a reasonable shadow of doubt,” he said, “now find him guilty. May God be with you.”
As arguments began Friday morning, lead prosecutor Michael Jarrett virtually yelled at the jury, "Ricky Cummings is a murderer.
Jarrett spoke for about 20 minutes and then yielded to defense attorney Walter S. "Skip" Reaves, who told the jury in more muted language to "follow the evidence."
Reaves said Jarrett spent most of Thursday morning trying to tie Cummings to gang activity, but "there is no proof" Cummings was a member of a gang.
Reaves told the jury it is an evil thing to put an innocent man in prison and he asked the panel to return a verdict of not guilty.
Lead defense attorney Russell Hunt, Sr., followed Reaves and reminded the jury that prosecutors have "no gun, no DNA and no reliable witnesses,"
Hunt also tried to discredit state's witness Nicole Henry, referring to her as a psychotic, mentally disturbed woman and a drug user.
Hunt also said Cummings is not a thug but a smart man who conducted himself well on the witness stand.
Strother already has said he will sequester the jury if that is necessary.
Both sides rested Thursday afternoon after prosecutors spent the morning grilling Cummings, challenging his claims that he wasn't involved in the March 2011 shooting that left two dead and two injured.
Cummings, 23, remained calm through the cross-examination by lead prosecutor Michael Jarrett, who tried hard Thursday to discredit Cummings' testimony that he was nowhere near the Lakewood Villas apartment complex in March 2011 when Keenan Hubert, 20, and Tyus Sneed, 17, were shot to death as they sat in a car in the parking lot.
Marion Bible, then 22, and Deontrae Majors, then 20, were wounded in the shooting.
Under defense questioning Wednesday, Cummings testified he did not kill anybody.
Cummings also established a timeline that he says proves he was nowhere near the murder scene when the shootings happened.
But Jarrett picked at the timeline Thursday and eventually got Cummings to contradict his own testimony.
Cummings had said he was more than a mile away selling drugs to make money when he learned of the shootings and ran to the Lakeside Villas apartments to see what was going on.
But under cross-examination Jarrett was able to get Cummings to say he and Albert Love, one of his co-defendants, actually were at the east end of the complex when the shooting started.
Prosecutors claim that Cummings killed the two men 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.
Earlier Thursday prosecutors showed a rap video posted on YouTube in memory of Bowers titled "Starch it Down, Flame it Up" and challenged Cummings' claims he's not affiliated with a gang.
Cummings was on the stand for two-and-a-half hours Thursday.
Prosecutors called two final witnesses Thursday afternoon before resting their case, Metro PCS custodian of records Steve Venable, and Brittany Snell, who testified earlier that she lent her cell phone to Cummings on the night of the deadly shooting.
They were questioned about the calls Cummings made on the phone to his brother, mother and others.