Jury selection in death penalty case set for September 2017

Tracy appears in court in Feb. of 2016 (photo by Field Walsh)

New Boston, Texas–A Texas prison inmate accused of capital murder in the beating death of a guard at the Barry Telford Unit during the summer of 2015 appeared in court Friday morning.

Jury selection in the capital murder trial of Billy Joel Tracy, 38, is scheduled to begin Sept. 6, 2017, and could take weeks. Tracy is accused of wielding a metal bar used to open the tray slots in prisoner’s doors like a baseball bat to hammer the life out of correctional officer Timothy Davison during a routine walk from a recreational area to a cell in administrative segregation July 15, 2015. The state is seeking the death penalty.

Tracy appeared Friday with his lawyers, Mac Cobb of Mount Pleasant, Texas, and Jeff Harrelson of Texarkana, before 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart for a pretrial hearing. Among issues discussed Friday was the exchange of discovery, or evidence, between the state and defense.

Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp and Bowie County District Attorney Jerry Rochelle said they have been diligent in complying with rules and law concerning discovery by turning over boxes of documents and evidence early in the case and packets of “supplemental discovery” at pretrial hearings which contain indexes of what is included.

“There is no greater burden as lawyers or as human beings than when we’re talking about taking a life. We take this very seriously,” Rochelle said. “Let there be no doubt that we are following the law. We are going above and beyond what the laws of disclosure require we provide, so when the time comes to put a needle in that guy’s arm, there won’t be any doubt in my mind.”

Crisp said the state has no objection to Lockhart signing an order which spells out the state’s discovery responsibilities as Cobb requested. But Crisp disagreed with Cobb when he complained that she has made an issue of the relationship between the defense lawyers and Tracy.

Tracy has filed numerous motions on his own behalf, including one for a speedy trial. The defense lawyers have asked for continuances in the case to give them more time to prepare which conflict with Tracy’s motion. Crisp said she has a duty to respond to the motions and has expressed concern that Tracy is taking steps to create issues that could help him appeal a conviction and death sentence.

Cobb produced an affidavit signed by Tracy at Friday’s hearing which states he is not seeking a speedy trial. Rochelle told the court that the state is ready for trial.

Tracy has a history of violence towards guards while in prison and has received additional 10-year and 45-year terms for attacks at other prison units. He is currently serving a life sentence with parole possible for aggravated assault, burglary and assault on a peace officer he received as an 18-year-old in Rockwall County, Texas.

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