Mental competency at issue again in capital murder case

Hunter Trammell appears in court flanked by Arkansas State Police. December, 2016 (photo by Field Walsh | TXK TODAY)

Issues surrounding the competency are again being raised in the case of an Arkansas prison inmate accused of beating a correctional officer to death at the Miller County jail in December 2016.

Tramell Mackenzie Hunter, 30, is accused of beating Officer Lisa Mauldin, 47, to death Dec. 18, 2016, following a brief verbal altercation. Moments after beating Mauldin, Hunter allegedly attacked Officer Damaris Allen. Hunter is facing the death penalty in the attack on Mauldin and a battery charge for the assault on Allen.

In the months following the death, Hunter was evaluated by staff at the Arkansas State Hospital who found mental illness made him unfit to proceed to trial. In July 2019, he was found to be competent and his evaluation noted that he may have been faking symptoms of mental illness.

Hunter’s defense attorney, Ron Davis, sought permission from the court to have Hunter evaluated by an expert hired by the defense. That evaluation resulted in another finding that Hunter is not fit to proceed to trial.

The case was scheduled for a competency hearing Nov. 2 before Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson but it was delayed after Davis filed a motion seeking a continuance. Davis wants time to locate a psychologist who performed one of Hunter’s first evaluations at the Arkansas State Hospital. According to the motion, that psychologist is thought to have moved to California.

Hunter’s case is currently set for jury selection Nov. 30. But that date may change now that the competency issue is being raised again by Davis.

If found guilty of capital murder Hunter faces life without parole or the death penalty.

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