Five jurors selected for murder trial
Inmate accused of beating a Telford guard to death could face death penalty
NEW BOSTON, Texas—Five Bowie County citizens were selected last week to be part of the jury that will decide the fate of a Texas prison inmate facing a possible death sentence in the July 2015 murder of a correctional officer at the
Unit in New
Billy Joel Tracy, 39, is accused of beating 47-year-old Timothy Davison to death the morning of July 15, 2015, during a routine walk from a prison day room back to Tracy’s one-man cell in administrative segregation. Tracy, who had allegedly packed all of his personal belongings before walking out of his cell for an hour of recreation, attacked Davison after slipping his left hand free of its cuff. After knocking the officer to the floor, Tracy allegedly grabbed Davison’s metal tray slot bar and used it to pummel him.
The state is seeking the death penalty. Bowie County District Attorney Jerry Rochelle made the announcement not long after a grand jury indicted Tracy for capital murder in late 2015.
The last time a death sentence was sought in Bowie County was in 2004 when Stephon Lavelle Walter was tried for the 2003 Labor Day weekend murders of three employees of Outback Steakhouse in Texarkana, one of whom was in her third trimester of pregnancy. A Collin County jury declined to sentence Walter to death, opting for a sentence of life instead, after a change of venue was granted in the case. At that time, Texas law did not include life without parole as a possible sentence for capital murder as it does today. Walter, 25 at the time of the murders and now 38, will be eligible for parole Sept. 4, 2043, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
The last time a death sentence was pronounced in Bowie County was in March 2001. James Scott Porter was already serving time for mur-
der when he killed a fellow inmate at the Telford Unit with a shank and a rock in May 2000. He was executed Jan. 4, 2005.
The month before Porter was sentenced to die, a Bowie County jury sentenced Deon James Tumblin to death for the June 2000 murder of a 75-yearold woman. Tumblin hanged himself in his cell on death row in 2004.
Lee Andrew Taylor was sentenced to death by a Bowie County jury in 2000 for the 1999 murder of a fellow inmate at the Telford Unit where he was serving time for aggravated robbery. He was executed June 16, 2011.
Since 1980, seven men have been sentenced to death for crimes committed in Bowie County. Of those, two have had their death sentences commuted to life, and Tumblin hanged himself. There are currently no Texas death row inmates whose sentences originated in Bowie County.
If Tracy’s jury convicts him of capital murder, the jury will have the option of death by lethal injection or life without the possibility of parole. In August, 331 individuals were qualified to serve as members of Tracy’s jury pool. Beginning Sept. 13, eight panel members per day have been scheduled to report to the Bowie County courthouse to undergo questioning by the court, state and defense. Because the state is seeking the ultimate punishment for Tracy, jury selection is a far lengthier process than in a typical Texas felony trial.
As of Friday, five panel members—three men and two women—had been chosen to serve as jurors. Eight members of the jury pool are scheduled to report at varying times each week day until 12 jurors and two alternates are seated. At earlier pretrial hearings, 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart tentatively scheduled opening arguments and testimony to begin in late
Tracy’s trial is likely to be more about punishment than establishing guilt, as Davison’s murder was captured from multiple angles by prison surveillance cameras. Lockhart previously ruled the state can play some of the footage for the jury during Tracy’s trial.
The state has given the defense notice of its intent to introduce evidence and testimony concerning Tracy’s propensity for violence both in and out of prison. Tracy’s prison history began in 1995 when he was sentenced to a three-year term for retaliation in Tarrant County, Texas. Three years later, Tracy was sentenced to life with parole possible, plus 20 years for burglary, aggravated assault and assault on a public servant in Rockwall County, Texas. In 2005, Tracy received an additional 45-year term for stabbing a guard with a homemade weapon at a TDCJ unit in Amarillo, Texas. Tracy was sentenced to 10 years in 2009 for attacking a guard at a TDCJ unit in Abilene, Texas. Included in the state’s notice are numerous other examples of violence toward prison staff and other inmates.
The defense is expected to present evidence and testimony meant to lead jurors to opt for a life sentence and rejection of the death penalty. Tracy is represented by Mac Cobb of Mount Pleasant, Texas, and Jeff Harrelson of Texarkana. Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp is leading the prosecution.
The trial itself is expected to take two to three weeks.
EDITOR’S NOTE: information concerning the history of death penalty cases in Bowie County was collected with the assistance of the Bowie County District Clerk’s Office.