TEXARKANA, Ark. — A capital murder defendant accused of killing a Miller County correctional officer is expected to undergo testing by an outside expert now that state mental health authorities have deemed him competent to stand trial.
Tramell Mackenzie Hunter, 29, appeared without his lawyer for a pretrial hearing Tuesday morning before Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson. Hunter's lawyer, Ron Davis of Little Rock, was in court in a different jurisdiction.
Johnson told Hunter that Davis is making arrangements for Hunter's evaluation by a private mental health expert.
A recent evaluation prepared by staff at Arkansas State Hospital concluded Hunter has been faking symptoms of mental illness to avoid prosecution and that he was legally responsible at the time of the alleged offense.
Johnson said funding to pay for the evaluation is coming from the Arkansas Public Defender Commission.
Hunter is accused of beating Correctional Officer Lisa Mauldin to death in the jail's kitchen Dec. 18, 2016. He is charged with capital murder in her death and Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Potter Barrett said her office is seeking the death penalty. Hunter faces a charge of battery on a peace officer for allegedly attacking Correctional Officer Damaris Allen moments after the attack on Mauldin.
Hunter is currently being held in a unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction where he is serving a 15-year sentence he received in 2011 in Pulaski County, Ark., for shooting his mother and uncle while in the process of stealing his mother's car. At the time of Mauldin's death, Hunter was on loan to Miller County as part of a program that allows prison inmates to serve their time in local jails where they provide cheap labor, enjoy greater freedom and are often closer to family.
If found guilty of capital murder, Hunter faces death by lethal injection or life without the possibility of parole.