Reversal of local man’s capital murder conviction stands

Albert Leslie Love, Jr. (Jail photo)
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, on Wednesday, denied a state’s motion to revisit an earlier order that reversed a local man’s capital murder conviction and death sentence.

Albert Leslie Love, 30, was convicted in 19th District Court of taking part in a shooting in 2011 in Waco that left two dead and three others wounded.

The jury recommended that Judge Ralph Strother sentence Love to death, which he did.

But on Dec. 7, 2016, the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the trial court’s verdict and sentence and ordered the issue back for re-trial.

In response, McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna filed a motion asking the appeals court to reconsider the ruling.

On Wednesday the high court denied his motion and upheld its original ruling.

Now Reyna must decide whether to continue to pursue the appeal of the reversal.

“Our intention is to re-try Mr. Love and hold him accountable for his part in this senseless act of violence. However, the final decision will be made after discussions with the victims' families and careful review of how this ruling affects the evidence to be introduced at trial,” he said Wednesday.

In its ruling in December, the appeals court said prosecutors should have secured a search warrant instead of a court order to obtain text messages used against Love during the trial.

“After reviewing appellant’s points of error, we find appellant’s sixth point of error, regarding the warrantless seizure of his text messages, to have merit," the court said in its ruling.

Authorities followed the established practice in seeking a court order requiring Love’s cellphone carrier to provide the texts as well as calls, but the appeals court ruled they should have obtained a search warrant instead.

“We didn’t do anything wrong, the judge didn’t do anything wrong, nothing was done wrong in the trial,” Reyna said at the time.

In appellant’s sixth point of error, Love's attorneys argued that the trial court erred in admitting cellular phone records in violation of the Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and Article I, sections 9, 10, and 19 of the Texas Constitution.

The court found that the records in question had been obtained without the presence of a search warrant.

In a dissenting opinion, however, Presiding Judge Sharon Keller, joined by Judge Barbara Hervey, argued that Love’s attorneys weren’t sufficiently specific in their motion to suppress the texts.

“(Love) made no attempt to segregate the records that were subject to his Fourth Amendment challenge from those that were not. Nor did he attempt to obtain a more specific ruling with respect to the different types of cell-phone-record evidence,” Keller wrote.

“Under these circumstances, defense counsel’s single global objection failed to preserve the claim upon which the Court grants relief,” she wrote.

The evidence at trial showed that on April 8, 2010, Emuel Bowers III was shot and killed while sitting in his car at a Waco park.

His close friends concluded that Keenan Hubert was responsible for Bowers’ death even though the police had uncovered no evidence to support this theory.

On the evening of March 28, 2011, Hubert, Marion Bible, and Deontrae Majors were in Majors’ car, which was parked at the Lakewood Villas Apartments on spring Street in east Waco.

Court testimony showed Rickey Cummings glared at Hubert, who then “rapped” some antagonizing lyrics at Cummings.

After Rickey walked away, Tyus Sneed arrived and joined Hubert, Bible, and Majors in the car to watch videos and smoke marijuana.

At approximately 11:20 p.m., Majors’ car was hit with a hail of bullets, shattering all of its windows except the front windshield, the opinion said.

Sneed and Hubert were each shot eight times and died in the back seat of Majors’ parked car.

Majors and Bible, although wounded, were able to escape through the front passenger door.

Immediately thereafter, an eyewitness saw Rickey chase Bible and Majors and then abandon his pursuit when his .45-caliber gun jammed.

Cummings also was convicted in the killings and remains on death row.

His brother D’Arvis Cummings is serving a 20 year sentence for his part in the killings.