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By Brian Fraga
Standard-Times staff writer
October 29, 2008 6:00 AM

NEW BEDFORD - Jury selection might begin today for an inmate who was charged seven years ago in the Easter Sunday riot at the Dartmouth House of Corrections.
However, Richard McMullen, 34, could postpone the trial if he requests a criminal responsibility evaluation to determine his culpability in the April 2001 riot that left eight correctional officers injured.
The district attorney's office wants to begin selecting jurors this week. Assistant District Attorney Kevin E. Connelly, the prosecutor handling the case, accused the defendant of
stall tactics.
"This is a ploy," Mr. Connelly said after the defendant indicated through counsel Tuesday he wanted extra time to prepare a defense, saying he was not mentally culpable for his actions during the riot.
On Tuesday, Mr. McMullen told the court that a clinician said in 2002 that he suffered from a mental disorder that grossly impairs his ability to recognize his own behavior.
However, prosecutors are skeptical.
"The defendant is hoping to put off trial, hoping there won't be a trial," Mr. Connelly said.
Mr. McMullen has been held on $100,000 bail since his May 16, 2001, arraignment on charges of kidnapping, assault and battery on a correctional officer, assault with a dangerous weapon, and malicious destruction of jail property.
Mr. McMullen was serving a 2½-year sentence for larceny, shoplifting and possession of a hypodermic needle when he allegedly attacked and held a prison guard hostage during the April 2001 riot.
About 100 inmates attacked their guards and took them hostage. The riot caused $700,000 in damage and left eight officers injured.
In November 2002, four inmates charged in the riot were convicted and given state sentences ranging from two years to 18 years.
Meanwhile, Mr. McMullen's case has languished. He has filed more than 25 motions, including three to dismiss, all denied. He has been mentally examined three times and has fired two lawyers, according to the case docket.
On Tuesday, Judge Gary Nickerson denied the defendant's motion to present expert witness testimony to argue he was not criminally responsible for his actions because his will was overtaken by a prison mob mentality.
A psychologist who filed a court-ordered report did not reach an opinion on whether Mr. McMullen had been "de-individualized" during the riot. The judge said the evidence would thus not be appropriate to present to a jury.
Mr. McMullen shook his head during the ruling and said he is being treated unfairly.
"So, you're just finding me guilty right now?" Mr. McMullen asked Judge Nickerson, who continually told the defendant to "be quiet" in the courtroom.
Attorney James M. Caramanica was appointed months ago as Mr. McMullen's standby counsel while the defendant was representing himself pro se. Mr. Caramanica will defend him during the trial, whenever it begins.
"We need some time to make sure the defendant understands the particulars of his case," Mr. Caramanica told the court Tuesday. He asked for time to obtain an expert witness and to evaluate the defendant.
However, Mr. Connelly wanted to begin jury selection this week.
"The case is 7½ years old. The commonwealth is ready for trial," he said.
"The witnesses are ready. ... Since I came onto the case in 2006, I've been trying to get the case to trial. The delays have not been attributable to the government."
Judge Nickerson gave the defendant the option to request a criminal responsibility evaluation. It was never done, even though Mr. McMullen filed a notice in March 2006 saying he intended to base his defense upon a lack of criminal responsibility, according to the case docket.
Judge Nickerson said Mr. Caramanica had a legitimate interest in having the evaluation. Mr. McMullen is expected to decide this morning whether to request the evaluation or begin jury selection.
Meanwhile, the judge said the case cannot continue to be delayed.
"This is a unique case," the judge said. "It's 2001 and here we are in 2008. I don't know of any other case that is seven years old."
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