Texas inmate accused of killing guard seeks new lawyer

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

An inmate accused of beating a correctional officer to death in July 2015 at the Telford Unit in New Boston, Texas, is asking for a new lawyer.

Billy Joel Tracy, 39, is charged with capital murder in the death of Correctional Officer Timothy Davison. Tracy allegedly freed a hand of its cuff as Davison walked him from a day room back to an administrative segregation cell. Tracy is accused of knocking Davison to the floor, grabbing his metal tray slot bar, and using it to pummel Davison, who died hours later of massive blunt force injuries at a local hospital.

The Bowie County District Attorney’s Office is seeking the death penalty for Tracy, who has a long history of violence in prison since he was assessed a life term by a jury in Rockwall County for assaults on a teen girl and a police officer. Since then Tracy has been a constant disciplinary problem, has repeatedly tried to escape, and has been sentenced to additional 10-year and 45-year terms for assaults on correctional officers.

After being indicted by a Bowie County grand jury for capital murder, 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart appointed Mount Pleasant lawyer Mac Cobb to act as Tracy’s lead defense attorney and Texarkana lawyer Jeff Harrelson to act as second chair. Despite having two lawyers, Tracy has written letters to the court and filed a number of pleadings pro se, which means on his own behalf.

Tracy’s pro se motions have been discussed often at pretrial hearings. Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp has complained that the pro se pleadings conflict with some of the motions filed by his lawyers. Crisp has argued that Tracy isn’t entitled to “hybrid” representation and has expressed concern that Tracy is purposefully creating legal issues that could help him at the appellate level if he is convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die.

Among the recent motions Tracy filed is one titled, “defendant’s pro se written objections to defense counsel ineptitude and sabotage of strategy and motion for appointment of new counsel.” Tracy complains in the motion that Cobb is either inept or deliberately trying to sabotage his case.

Tracy claims Cobb has dragged his feet in getting copies of documents and evidence to Tracy so he can study them and help in his own defense. Tracy complains that Cobb has done nothing to stop prison personnel from “theft” of his mail and property. Tracy has complained repeatedly that a typewriter, hot pot and food that he had in his cell at the time of Davison’s murder have not been returned to him. The state has argued the typewriter is being held as evidence.

Tracy also claims that he was assaulted by prison staff at the Polunsky Unit in December 2015. Tracy alleges Cobb has “turned a blind eye,” to the alleged incident. Tracy claims that Cobb duped him into signing a waiver of speedy trial which was submitted to the court at a hearing last month. Tracy claims he signed the waiver on Cobb’s promise to take up certain issues but that Cobb has failed to do what he pledged.

Tracy is also asking Lockhart to rule that Texas law gives him the right to represent himself at the same time he is being represented by lawyers. Tracy has filed motions complaining that the DA’s office is trying to undermine claims he might later raise on appeal and describes the prosecution as, “departed from norms of professionalism so as to have a more personal hand in the anticipated and state-sanctioned murder of this defendant.”

Tracy’s next pretrial hearing is scheduled for Jan. 27 before Lockhart. Jury selection in the case is scheduled to begin in September at the Bowie County courthouse in New Boston, Texas.

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