An Arkansas Department of Correction inmate accused of beating a female correctional officer to death at the Miller County jail in December 2016 needs mental health treatment before his case can proceed.
Trammel Mackenzie Hunter, 28, is charged with capital murder in the Dec. 18, 2016, death of Correctional Officer Lisa Mauldin. Hunter allegedly attacked Mauldin, 47, in the jail’s kitchen after a brief verbal exchange, beating her in the face with his fists. Hunter allegedly attacked Correctional Officer Damaris Allen, then 35, in the kitchen when she walked in after the attack on Mauldin.
Hunter has been found incompetent to stand trial because of mental illness by two Arkansas State Hospital psychologists in separate evaluations. Because Hunter was on loan to the Miller County jail from Arkansas Department of Correction as part of the state’s 309 program and is not simply a pretrial detainee, his case presents unique issues, Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson said at a hearing Thursday.
Inmates in the 309 program are “on loan” from prison to county or city jails where they perform labor while enjoying greater freedom than in Arkansas Department of Correction. At the time of Mauldin’s murder, Hunter was serving a 15-year sentence assessed him as part of a plea agreement in Pulaski County for aggravated robbery and two counts of domestic battery.
Hunter’s lawyer, Ron Davis of Little Rock, previously entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity on Hunter’s behalf. Davis was not able to be present at Thursday’s hearing, Johnson said.
Johnson and Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Black addressed the issue of Hunter’s need for mental health treatment with Billy Burris, Arkansas State Hospital Program Coordinator for Forensic Services. Burris said Hunter cannot be moved to the state hospital for treatment because of safety concerns. However, Burris said staff from the state hospital are working in coordination with medical staff at ADC to address Hunter’s need for mental health treatment.
Burris said staff from the state hospital will visit Hunter monthly. Johnson asked Burris to notify the court immediately if prison officials show any “resistance” to the state hospital’s efforts to restore Hunter to competency through treatment such as medication.
Johnson scheduled the case for a review Oct. 23. If convicted of capital murder in Mauldin’s death, Hunter faces life without parole or death by lethal injection.