Five ju­rors se­lected for mur­der trial

In­mate ac­cused of beat­ing a Telford guard to death could face death penalty

Texarkana Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Lynn LaRowe

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

Barry Telford

Unit in New

Bos­ton, Texas.

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

Oc­to­ber.

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.

llarowe@texarkanagazette.com

TRACY

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