Punishment trial underway for inmate facing death penalty

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NEW BOSTON, Texas: Testimony in the sentencing phase of Billy Joel Tracy’s capital murder trial began Wednesday after jurors heard opening remarks from the prosecution and defense.

Tracy, 39, is facing a possible death sentence in the July 15, 2015, slaying of 47-year-old Correctional Officer Timothy Davison at the Barry Telford Unit in New Boston. Tracy slipped a hand free of its cuff, something witnesses testified he has done before, and attacked. Tracy fatally beat Davison with a metal tray slot bar and was found guilty of capital murder last week by a Bowie County jury.

Wednesday the jury heard gripping testimony from a woman who was 16 when Tracy attacked her in the bedroom of her Garland, Texas, home in 1998. Kasey Kuhn, now 36, said she and a boyfriend, who was a friend of Tracy’s, went to Tracy’s apartment and drank beer. Kuhn said Tracy knew she was involved with his friend, Chris, but that he repeatedly made sexual advances and “disgusting” suggestions to her. After returning home, Kuhn said she was dressed for bed, watching television and smoking a cigarette when she heard tapping on her window.

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Because she had cracked open the window to allow smoke to escape, Tracy was able to get inside after bending the window frame. The woman said Tracy removed his shirt and shoes despite her pleas for him to leave. When she bit him when he tried to kiss her, prompting Tracy to attack. Tracy struck and strangled the victim until she lost consciousness, waking to find herself bloody and bruised in the floorboard of Tracy’s moving car. After continuing his assault, Tracy pulled his car into a grassy park in Rockwall, Texas, and dragged the victim into the woods.

A young Rockwall police officer, Paul Britt, who spied the car in the park, thought he had come upon a drunk driving accident. Tracy fought the officer and others who arrived before fleeing into the woods. Britt testified he started to chase Tracy but stopped when he saw Kuhn, covered in blood, stand up in the woods.

Rockwall home owner Joyce Lemmons testified Tracy was in her home when she and her daughter entered the afternoon of Jan. 28, 1998, prompting them to flee to a neighbor’s. Tracy was arrested after leaping from the top of a three-story house nearby. Tracy was sentenced to two life sentences plus 20 years by a jury in Rockwall County on July 31, 1998.

Anthony Allison, a supervisor with Office of Inspector General, interviewed Tracy July 23, 2015, about the attack that ended Davison’s life. Allison testified that Tracy claimed he did not mean to kill Davison, just assault him. A recording of the intreview was played Wednesday for the jury.

Tracy told Allison he would not have attacked Davison if he had been accompanied by a female officer because of the “stigma” assaulting a woman brought him with other inmates after he stabbed a female officer in 2005. Tracy said he believes assaulting women should be acceptable because women want to be treated as equals.

TDCJ Classification Team staff member Kelly Enloe testified Wednesday that Tracy has been housed in administrative segregation for approximately 17 of the 20 years he’s been in prison. Enloe said inmates in administrative segregation are frequently evaluated and that it is possible Tracy could be returned to general population in a prison if he is sentenced to life without parole, the only other sentencing option available to Tracy’s jury than death by lethal injection.

In opening arguments, Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp told the jury Tracy has been and will continue to be a threat while in prison. Tracy’s lead defense attorney, Mac Cobb of Mount Pleasant, asked the jury to reserve judgment until all of the evidence is presented. The jury was told by 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart to expect the punishment phase of trial will last longer than the portion of trial concerning guilt.

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