Judge: Suspect in police chief killing unfit for trial - KPTV - FOX 12

Judge: Suspect in police chief killing unfit for trial

Posted: Updated: Feb 27, 2013 04:54 PM
Daniel Butts in court Wednesday Daniel Butts in court Wednesday

The man accused of killing Rainier police Chief Ralph Painter in 2011 has been found not mentally stable to stand trial.

Daniel Butts, a judge said, should be sent to the Oregon State Hospital and put on anti-psychotic medication.

"The court sees no option but to order that the defendant is unable to aide and assist in his own defense and that the current inabilities are the result of his mental deficiencies," said Judge Ted Grove.

Butts was arrested in January 2011 after police said he shot Painter during a struggle at a Rainier car stereo shop.

Painter's death shocked the Columbia River town, located about an hour from Portland. Rainier's mayor previously said the town will never completely heal from losing its police chief.

There have been numerous hearings in the two years since the shooting, including a competency hearing that wrapped up last week. In some of those hearings, Butts was very vocal and had outbursts in court.

Last week, however, he was seen plugging his ears, laying his head down and making strange facial expressions. In one hearing, he asked to have his handcuffs removed.

On Wednesday, he once again plugged his ears, closed his eyes and put his head down on the table as the judge announced his decision.

The judge pointed to movements and behaviors possibly linked to schizophrenia. The judge also noted that whether it's refusal or inability, it's clear Butts is not communicating with his lawyers.

Painter's wife and family are disappointed with the judge's decision.

"We've suffered a temporary setback and we're hopeful that we can move forward soon," said Amy Painter, Ralph Painter's widow.

District Attorney Steve Atchison said the case is still open and the competency process could be restarted again at a later date.

Atchison said, however, that Butts could eventually be deemed unable to aide and assist in his own defense ever. At that time, the case would be dropped and he would likely face civil commitment.

Ralph Painter's family said they will stay on top of any development in the case going forward.

"I don't know that he'd be glad we're here participating, but I know it's what he would do for anyone one of us," Amy Painter said.

Administrators with Oregon State Hospital say Butts will be sent to a treatment team made up of doctors and therapists at the hospital. 

He will be given anti-psychotic drugs and evaluated with in 90 days of admission, and every 180 days after that.

If his team believes he has recovered from his mental illness, or was faking the whole time,   they will notify the courts immediately.

Each patient is different,  but on average the hospital says mental recovery could take about 3.5 months. 

The hospital says they cannot keep patients who are under an "aid and assist" order for more than three years, or the period of time equal to the maximum sentence the court could have imposed if the defendant had been convicted, whichever is shorter.

Also, in some cases, the evaluator may make a determination that the patient is unlikely to regain competency in the foreseeable future.

If that happens, the hospital notifies the court and the judge may decide to discontinue the order, according to administrators with OSH.

OSH says In both cases, the court dismisses the charges and either orders that the patient be discharged, or initiates civil commitment proceedings.

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