NEW BOSTON, Texas—A Bowie County jury deliberated just over an hour Wednesday morning before sentencing Texas prison inmate Billy Joel Tracy to death.
Tracy, 39, will face the ultimate punishment in the July 15, 2015, fatal beating of Barry Telford Unit Correctional Officer Timothy Davison.
The jury had to consider two questions, or special issues, in arriving at Tracy's sentence: "Whether beyond a reasonable doubt there is a probability that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society," and "whether taking into consideration all of the evidence, including the circumstances of the offense, the defendant's character and background and the personal moral culpability of the defendant, there is a sufficient mitigating circumstance or circumstances to warrant that a sentence of imprisonment without parole rather than a death sentence be imposed."
The jury unanimously answered "yes" to question one and "no" to question two. Each of the nine men and three women on Tracy's jury was polled after 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart read the jury's answers.
Lockhart pronounced the punishment of death after advising Tracy of his rights to appeal.
A packed courtroom watched in silence, some of them with hands over their mouths, as Lockhart released the jury. Davison's brother and niece sat surrounded by Texas Department of Criminal Justice staff as the trial ended.
"Justice has been a long time coming," Ken Davison said.
Tracy attacked Timothy Davison as he opened the door to cell 66 and briefly turned his gaze. After knocking Davison to the floor, Tracy grabbed the officer's metal tray slot bar and wielded it like a hammer, striking Davison repeatedly in the head and face after he lost consciousness. Tracy took Davison's pepper spray before throwing him feet over head down the stairwell.
As a group of Davison's fellow officers approached, Tracy fouled the air with the chemical agent and retreated to his cell. A member of the five-man extraction team that entered the cell to remove Tracy was bitten.
During the trial, Tracy's jury heard testimony concerning multiple acts of violence by Tracy and the offenses which earned him two life sentences and a 20-year term in 1998. The jury heard of planned and calculated attacks on officers at units of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice across the state.
Defense experts and Tracy's defense team, Mac Cobb of Mount Pleasant and Jeff Harrelson of Texarkana, argued that Tracy suffers from a "broken brain" compounded by a horrible childhood and years in prison.
"He didn't choose this kind of brain. Billy had bad nature and bad nurture," Harrelson said.
The state argued that Tracy is an incorrigible person with a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder who will continue to murder and maim if the ultimate punishment is not imposed.
"The state of Texas will never bring you a stronger case for the death penalty," argued Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards.
Lead prosecutor Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp told the jury that someone will be sentenced to death at the end of Tracy's trial.
"Will it be another correctional officer with TDCJ, or will it be Billy Joel Tracy?" Crisp asked. "You decide."
Read tomorrow's online and print editions for full coverage of the trial's last day.