New Boston, Texas: A video of the beating that killed a correctional officer in July 2015 at the Barry Telford Unit in New Boston was played for the jury Monday morning in Billy Joel Tracy’s capital murder trial.
A man identified by multiple witnesses as Tracy leaves his cell the morning of July 15, 2015, without a shirt, wearing basketball shorts and tennis shoes as a female correctional officer escorts him to a dayroom in building 12 of the prison where Tracy occupies cell 66 of E pod where he is housed in administrative segregation, in the surveillance video played as former Telford video supervisor Mark Adcock Jr. testified under questioning from Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp. The offender walks with his hands behind his back as if cuffed as Correctional Officer Timothy Davison, 47, escorts Tracy up a flight of metal stairs to the hallway in front of cell 66.
Once the cell door is opened, the offender slips his hand free of the cuffs and attacks Davison, who falls to the floor. The offender takes Davison’s metal tray slot bar, which is a 16 inch metal tool used to open the slots in cell doors, and repeatedly smashes an unconscious Davison in the head and face before throwing his body down the stairs, revealing a puddle of blood where Davison’s head had been. The offender uses Davison’s pepper spray to fill the air in the stairwell and throws the metal slot bar down the stairs before entering cell 66 and shutting the door.
Adcock and former Correctional Officer Marti Bradford identified Tracy as the man in the video. Bradford testified she was working the pickett in E pod when she saw Tracy attacking Davison. The pickett is a sort of control room in the center of a pod of cells. The officer in the Pickett unlocks and locks doors as needed for officers and has a view of all the cell doors. Bradford said she immediately radioed for help and continued to urge responding officers to hurry.
“I just remember him hitting Mr. Davison repeatedly,” Bradford testified. “Then he grabbed him by his legs and picked him up and threw him down the stairs like trash.”
Bradford said Davison was calm and easy going and that she never known him to have a conflict with Tracy or any other inmate.
“There was just the stress in her voice. Something was really wrong,” testified Telford Lt. Undre Johnson of hearing Bradford call for help.
Johnson said the pepper spray in the air made it difficult for him to breathe.
“He was really disfigured. Covered in blood. You couldn’t recognize him, his face, you couldn’t tell that much about him,” Johnson testified. “There was no movement from him at all.”
Correctional Officer Kevin Squibb testified under questioning from Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards that he was among a group of officers in training when Johnson approached and told them to follow. Squibb said his training as a medic in an earlier job kicked in and he and another officer carried Davison down the hall until they were met by medical staff with a gurney. Squibb said he remained with Davison, holding his head in hopes of protecting his neck and spine, until Lifenet paramedics arrived.
“When I tried to wrap his head, I could tell it was so bad. It didn’t look right. It didn’t look like somebody,” Medical Assistant Alicia Rushing said.
Nurse practitioner Jamie Barker said she knew Davison but was unable to recognize the severely battered officer as him.
“There was so much trauma to his face. There was so much blood we couldn’t get an airway,” Barker said.
Licensed Vocational Nurse Gina King testified that wounds to Davison’s head, “looked like the prongs on a slot bar.”
Registered nurse paramedic Gary Siefert testified he was on the helicopter that transported Davison to St. Michael’s Hospital in Texarkana from the Telford Unit. Siefert testified that Davison’s head wounds were so severe he could see the officer’s skull and brain tissue. Siefert testified that he performed CPR on Davison until after he was brought into the emergency room where he was treated by trauma surgeon Rachael Keilin.
“His head and his face were destroyed. There’s really no other way to put that,” Keilin testified. “His head was cracked like an egg.”
Keilin said she and others were unable to stabilize Davison and that he was pronounced dead about an hour after arriving at the hospital.
“Once you have CPR in progress, from a head injury, the fundamental basic brain functions have already been affected,” Keilin said. “The brain can no longer tell your heart to beat, can no longer tell your lungs to breathe, that’s a profound level of trauma.”
In opening statements, Texarkana defense attorney Jeff Harrelson told the jury there is more to the story than the video they watched later that morning. Harrelson asked the jury to wait to make a decision in the case until hearing all the evidence.
The jury will not return to the courthouse until Wednesday morning, 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart ordered. Lockhart will review documents and other evidence with the state and defense Tuesday. Last week Lockhart said he expects the first phase of trial, guilt or innocence, to take about a week. If the jury returns a guilty verdict, the punishment trial is set to begin Nov. 1.
The jury has the choice of sentencing Tracy to death by lethal injection or life without the possibility of parole.
Tracy was sentenced to two life sentences plus 20 years in 1998 by a jury in Rockwall County for aggravated assault, burglary of a habitation and assault on a peace officer. Attacks on correctional officers at other units of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice have resulted in additional sentences of 45 and 10 years.
Tracy is being held at the Telford Unit during his trial.