ST. HELENS, Ore. — A Washington state man accused of killing the Rainier, Ore., police chief in 2011 is mentally impaired and can’t assist with his defense, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Circuit Judge Ted Grove ordered that Daniel Butts, 23, of Kalama, Wash., be sent to the Oregon state mental hospital to be treated and forcibly medicated until he is fit to return to Columbia County for trial, The Daily News of Longview reported.
Butts is charged with aggravated murder in the fatal shooting of Chief Ralph Painter on Jan. 5, 2011, after Painter responded to a report of a suspicious person at a car stereo shop.
Defense lawyers said in hearings last week that Butts is psychotic and won’t meet with them or help make decisions. Prosecutors argue Butts is faking illness.
Grove cited the defendant’s childlike behavior and focus on such trivial matters as whether he can smoke or have a cheeseburger. The judge also noted Butts’ “bizarre or grotesque” grimaces and movements during the three days of mental competency hearings.
While acknowledging that psychiatrists disagree about whether Butts is impaired or faking, the judge said the uncertainty led to him to conclude treatment and medication are needed.
Several defense psychiatrists said Butts would improve with anti-psychotic medication, Grove noted. Butts has refused such medication. Grove ordered forced medication in hopes of answering the mental health question.
Painter’s widow and four of his six children attended Wednesday’s hearing.
“We see this as a temporary setback, but we’re still not giving up hope (of a criminal trial),” Painter’s daughter, Julie Heuer, said after the ruling. “Hopefully he can get treated and will be back here in a reasonable amount of time.”
District Attorney Stephen Atchison contends that Butts is faking mental illness or purposely delaying the trial because he faces a possible death sentence and the evidence against him is compelling — there was an eyewitness to the shooting.
Atchison added that state psychiatrists failed to find Butts had any mental disorder.
In January 2012, after an earlier competency hearing, Grove ruled that Butts was faking mental problems to avoid trial. A second hearing was ordered after Butts stabbed himself in the head with a pencil last year and then refused all medical treatment.