Both sides rest in inmate’s capital murder trial

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New Boston, Texas: The state and defense rested mid-afternoon Thursday in the trial of a Texas prison inmate facing a possible death sentence for killing a correctional officer at the Barry Telford Unit in July 2015.

Billy Joel Tracy, 39, is accused of beating Correctional Officer Timothy Davison to death the morning of July 15, 2015. After both sides closed their cases in the guilt or innocence phase of Tracy’s trial, 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart put the jury in an evening recess. Friday morning they are expected to hear closing arguments before beginning deliberations.

Tracy spent about four hours on the witness stand Thursday morning and afternoon. Under questioning from Texarkana attorney Jeff Harrelson, Tracy described a somewhat average childhood but claimed his father was physically abusive. Tracy said he and his father, who died in 2012, became close after he was sentenced to two life sentences plus 20 years by a Rockwall County jury in 1998 for assaulting a 16-year-old girl, burglarizing houses and assaulting a police officer.

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Tracy said he has changed his thought processes since writing a manual for future or new inmates called, “How to Thrive and Survive in Prison.”

Tracy claimed he attacked Davison because Davison never brought him a cell phone after he paid the officer $500. Inmates are not allowed to have cash in prison and employees and visitors to Texas prisons can’t carry more than $25, witnesses testified.

Tracy admitted that he has received additional five and 45-year prison sentences for assaulting officers while in prison but attempted to minimize his role in the behavior by blaming the victims, one of whom he described as a “horrible person.” Tracy admitted he has had more than 100 disciplinary infractions since being a ward of TDCJ.

“You were reaking havoc on the Allred Unit, weren’t you,” Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp asked during cross examination. “Didn’t they have to add another staff member because of you?”

Crisp confronted Tracy with multiple statements he has made to TDCJ staff over the years threatening to kill and assault correctional officers. Tracy admitted he used a piece of metal to defeat the handcuffs Davison put on him before letting Tracy out of a prison dayroom on the day of Davison’s death. After Davison opened Tracy’s cell door, Tracy attacked, knocking Davison to the floor and grabbing his metal tray slot bar.

Tracy denied he meant to kill Davison but admitted he continued to smash him in the face with the bar even after it was clear Davison was unconscious. Tracy testified that “I can’t trust myself so I’m not going to do that anymore.”

Under questioning from Crisp, Tracy expressed a belief that use of violence is acceptable if its justified, even against women, who want to be treated as equals.

“I believe the use of violence is fine. So does the state of Texas. They execute you,” Tracy said.

The state is seeking a death sentence for Tracy. If the jury returns a guilty verdict Friday, a punishment phase is scheduled to begin Nov. 1. The only other choice for the jury is life without the possibility of parole.

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