A man on death row for the Spring Street murders of 2011 will likely get a new trial after the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals overturned his conviction and death sentence.
In 2013, a jury found Albert Love Jr. guilty of capital murder in the shooting deaths of Tyus Sneed and Keenan Hubert. The men were killed while parked at the Lakewood Villas Apartments in East Waco.
Prosecutors back then argued Sneed and Hubert's shooting deaths were in retaliation for the murder of Emuel Bowers III back in April 2010 where Bowers was shot and killed while sitting in a car in a Waco park.
Love’s attorney Ariel Payan did not expect this outcome.
"Very, very pleasantly surprised. It is extremely rare thing to happen for a case like this to get reversed at this level,” Payan.
On Wednesday, the court ruled 6-3 that Love should get a new trial because the text messages used in his trial to incriminate him were not requested through a probable-cause based warrant.
McLennan County prosecutors requested the text messages from Love’s cell phone provider through a court order.
McLennan DA Abel Reyna and Payan agreed the law allowed that back then.
"The law was less clear about whether someone needed a search warrant to get communications done over cellular systems,” Payan said.
Reyna said law enforcement, his office and the judge who ruled in favor of the court order acted appropriately and in accordance to law when obtaining the text messages.
“This is literally a change in the rules with this case. This is not something that was in play or in effect at the time this case was tried,” Reyna said.
When the court looked at the possibility that the text messages may have contributed to Love’s conviction, they look at a sample of the 1,600 text messages admitted at trial. The court concluded, the texts had a great probable impact. In addition, the opinion stated, the court could not determine that text messages did not contribute to the jury’s guilty verdict.
After the court’s opinion, Reyna said his office plans to retry Love and request the same text messages with a search warrant.
Love’s initial trial happened in Williamson County. Reyna said his office will likely obtain the cell phone records from Love’s cell phone carrier with a search warrant and retry him, possibly in McLennan County.
The initial trial was transferred to Williamson County due to the level of publicity surrounding the murders. His co-defendant Rickey Donnell Cummings was convicted and sentenced to death row for the murders before Love.
The retrial of a death penalty could be costly for the county but it may be essential for the victim's families.
"When you ask the mother of a child who was shot eight times, some of which with an AK-47. I would really would wonder what value she would put on that life compared to a trial for that individual who shot her son,” Reyna said.
He added he thinks a retrial will end with a guilty verdict for Love.
If Love is retried, he will be transferred from a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison in Polunsky County to the McLennan County Jail.
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