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Tramell Mackenzie Hunter

Reports concerning a Miller County capital murder defendant's fitness to proceed to trial and criminal responsibility at the time of a correctional officer's murder in 2016 find that he has been feigning symptoms of mental illness to avoid the consequences of his misconduct.

Tramell Mackenzie Hunter, 29, is accused of using his bare hands to beat Correctional Officer Lisa Mauldin, 47, to death Dec. 18, 2016, in the kitchen of the Miller County jail. Hunter is charged with battery of a peace officer for allegedly attacking Correctional Officer Damaris Allen moments after he delivered the fatal blows

to Mauldin.

Last month, Hunter appeared in court for the first time in more than a year. After having been found incompetent in 2017 by two mental health experts, Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson ordered Hunter's transfer in 2018 to the Arkansas State Hospital in hopes Hunter's competency could be restored.

A report received July 25 notes that Hunter had no history of delusional thinking until nearly five months after his alleged crimes in Miller County when he was first evaluated. The report points out as well that Hunter's symptoms only appear during interactions with his social worker and treating physician, leading staff to wonder if Hunter is malingering.

According to the report, Hunter has asked specific questions of staff about how a specific diagnosis of mental illness would affect his status as a criminal defendant.

"On Mr. Hunter's second day at A.S.H. (Arkansas State Hospital), he 'asked if being shot in the neck with drugs would make him eligible to plead NGRI (not guilty by reason of insanity)," the report states. "For instance, he specifically commented that he believed he may have DID (ie, dissociative identity disorder); this remark was notable because laypeople are typically not familiar with this formal diagnosis and will instead refer to having multiple personalities."

The report also notes that Hunter has been twice honored with the designation of "patient of the week" while at the state hospital "for exhibiting role model behavior on the unit." The report also refers to Hunter's status as a 309 inmate while in the Miller County jail.

The program allows Arkansas prison inmates to be assigned to county and city jails where they perform cheap labor, enjoy greater freedom, and are often closer to family. Hunter was serving a prison sentence out of Pulaski County at the time of Mauldin's murder for shooting his mother and uncle while in the process of stealing his mother's car.

"Mr. Hunter explained he attained this position by being 'a good, model inmate,' and there is no indication he was receiving mental health treatment or prescribed psychotropic medication at that time," the report states. "Regarding his mental state on the day of the offense, he said, 'I was feeling normal. I was feeling good. I was ready to work and get out of there.'"

The report states that Hunter was well aware that attacking someone could lead to criminal charges as that is what landed him behind bars initially.

"Moreover, the police report indicates that he ran out of the kitchen after assaulting two officers, suggesting an attempt to avoid apprehension and awareness of the criminal nature of his conduct," the report states.

Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Potter Barrett previously announced her office will seek the death penalty for Hunter in Mauldin's death. The only other punishment available for capital murder under Arkansas law is life without the possibility of parole.

At a hearing in July, Little Rock lawyer Ron Davis said he will seek a court order for Hunter's evaluation by an outside expert. Hunter is scheduled to appear before Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson later this month for a pretrial hearing.

 

llarowe@texarkanagazette.com

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