The earliest stage of jury selection in the capital murder trial of a Texas prison inmate accused of beating a correctional officer to death at the Telford Unit in New Boston, Texas, began this week.
More than 300 potential jurors reported in two groups Wednesday and Thursday to hear general instructions and fill out questionnaires which will be used to determine who will serve on the jury that decides the case of Billy Joel Tracy, 39. The state is seeking the death penalty for Tracy in the July 15, 2015, murder of Correctional Officer Timothy Davison, 47.
According to the Bowie County District Clerk’s Office, 172 prospective jurors reported Wednesday and 174 reported Thursday. Of the total who reported, 70 were excused from service by 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart for reasons such as health conditions, with 276 qualified to proceed through the jury selection process. Lockhart issued writs of attachment for 456 people who did not report for service as instructed. The Bowie County Sheriff’s Office is serving the writs which direct jurors to report Aug. 11. Those potential jurors will hear group instructions and complete questionnaires at that time.
All prospective jurors who are qualified to serve are being given specific dates and times beginning in September to report for individual questioning by the court, state and defense. The process of individually questioning prospective jurors will continue until 12 jurors and two alternate jurors have been selected and is expected to continue into October. Tracy’s trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 23.
Tracy is accused of attacking Davison as the two walked from a prison day room back to Tracy’s cell in the administrative segregation section of the prison. Tracy allegedly freed one of his hands from a cuff and knocked Davison to the floor. Tracy allegedly grabbed Davison’s tray slot bar and beat him with it, causing injuries which proved fatal.
Tracy is currently being held at the Coffield Unit in Tennessee Colony, Texas. Prison officials have cited security reasons for not disclosing where Tracy will be held during the trial.
Tracy was sentenced to life with parole possible for burglary and aggravated assault by a jury in Rockwall County in 1998. The jury assessed an additional 10-year term for assault on a peace officer. Since becoming a Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmate, Tracy has received additional 45-year and 10-year sentences for attacking correctional officers at units in Potter County and Jones County.
If found guilty of capital murder, Tracy faces death by lethal injection or life without the possibility of parole.