NEW BOSTON, Texas—The lengthy process of choosing a jury to decide the case of a Texas prison inmate accused in the July 2015 fatal beating of a guard gets under way this morning at Bowie County Courthouse in New Boston.
Billy Joel Tracy, 39, is facing the death penalty if convicted of capital murder in the July 15, 2015, death of 47-year-old Timothy Davison, a correctional officer tasked with escorting Tracy back to his cell following an hour of recreation in a prison day room at the Barry Telford Unit in New Boston.
Eight of the 331 members of Tracy's jury pool are scheduled to report at varying times today for individual questioning by 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart, the prosecution and the defense. The process will repeat and continue on weekdays until 12 jurors and two alternates have been selected. Trial is expected to begin in late October at the earliest.
Tracy allegedly packed up the personal belongings he kept in his one-man cell in administrative segregation prior to his hour of recreation on the day he allegedly killed Davison in full view of multiple video surveillance cameras, according to a Texas Department of Criminal Justice report. On the walk back to his cell, Tracy allegedly slipped a hand free of its cuff and attacked, knocking Davison to the floor.
Tracy is accused of grabbing Davison's tray slot bar, a device resembling a metal pipe used to manipulate the openings in cell doors at mealtime, and pummelling Davison repeatedly with it during the two-minute attack. As a group of Davison's fellow correctional officers approached, Tracy allegedly hurled Davison down nearby stairs and doused the air with a blast from Davison's pepper spray. Davison died several hours later at a Texarkana hospital.
Last month, Tracy's jury pool heard general instructions as a group and filled out questionnaires meant to aid in the selection process. Potential jurors can be struck for cause by 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart or by the defense or state for nearly any reason.
The only punishments available for capital murder under Texas law are life without the possibility of parole and death by lethal injection.
Tracy has been behind bars for more than half his life.
In 1995, 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 state prison in Abilene, Texas.
Crisp has filed notice of her intent to call a bevy of witnesses who are expected to provide firsthand accounts of Tracy's violent past.
The trial is expected to last two to three weeks.