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Life of Rickey Cummings will soon rest in hands of jurors


The life of Rickey Cummings will soon rest in the hands of 14 jurors tasked with deciding whether Cummings will be sentenced to death or spend the rest of his days behind bars.

The defense team rested their case in the punishment phase of the trial Tuesday evening. They began calling witnesses just after 8:30 a.m. in the 19th District Court of the McLennan County Courthouse. The jury heard from 5 of Rickey Cummings' family members including his grandmother, two aunts, a cousin and the mother of his 4 year-old son.

Cummings' grandmother, Erma Richards, told the jury Rickey was "a good kid," though she admitted he didn't always follow the rules. "I did my best," Richards said. "We all did."

Annette Wilkerson, Cummings' aunt, said Rickey was a caring and positive person. "Regardless of the picture that's been painted," said Wilkerson, "that's not him." Wilkerson told prosecutors during their cross-examination that she had no knowledge of Cummings selling drugs or carrying around guns.

Rickey Cummings' older cousin, Jared Embry, testified that he didn't think Cummings belonged to a gang. "He just wanted to play ball, get the girls and look fresh," Embry said. Embry pleaded with the jury to spare his cousin's life. "If you think he took someone else's life, why would y'all want to take his life?" Embry asked jurors.

The mother of Rickey Cummings' 4 year-old son, Britney Hays, told the jury Cummings was a great person and a great father. "I need him here for my son regardless," she said. Prosecutors, however, countered by pointing out that Cummings failed to pay her child support.

Judge Ralph Strother called for a recess in the trial just before 10:00 a.m. Testimony was supposed to resume at 1:00 p.m., but prosecutors asked to question the first witness before she testified. Amy Nguyen, a mitigation expert, was questioned outside the presence of the jury about her testimony.

Nguyen planned to present a PowerPoint presentation featuring maps that detailed the demographics of the neighborhood where Cummings grew up. After more than 40 minutes of questioning from prosecutors and an objection to her testimony, Judge Strother decided not to let her testify.

Only one witness took the stand in the presence of the jury on Tuesday afternoon. Frank Aubuchon, an expert in the criminal justice system, told the jury what life would be like for Rickey Cummings if he's sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole.

Aubuchon said Cummings would likely go to a maximum security prison where he would be classified as a member of the "Bloods Gang" because of the tattoos on his body. Cummings has a five-pointed star and the numbers "5" and "9" tattooed on his body. Aubuchon said those tattoos were enough "to confirm him as Blood member."

The sentencing phase will continue Wednesday morning at 9:00 a.m. After closing arguments from prosecutors and the defense, the jury will begin deliberating.

Cummings was convicted of capital murder on Friday, Nov. 2 after the jury deliberated for nearly three hours. He faces the death penalty or life in prison with no chance of parole for his role in the 2011 Spring Street murders. Tyus Sneed, 17, and Keenan Hubert, 20, were gunned down inside a car at Waco's Lakewood Villas Apartments.

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