ST. HELENS, Ore. – Accused cop-killer Daniel Butts was back in a courtroom Wednesday, more than a year after a judge ruled he was sane enough to stand trial.
Butts is charged with murdering Rainier, Ore. Police Chief Ralph Painter in 2011.
Prosecutors wanted the judge to see Wednesday that Butts is ready for trial and that he’s very aware of what he’s involved in. They said even though Butts has shown frantic and manic behavior in the past, it all stopped when he got to the Oregon State Hospital.
Butts sat quietly in court, holding his head in his hands at times. He wore two stun devices during the competency hearing; two deputies had fingers on remote triggers.
Stephanie Lopez, the psychiatrist who evaluated Butts for three weeks at the state hospital, said he did not show the typical signs of mental health problems.
“It shows that he recognizes he’s there for legal and criminal charges,” Lopez said. “It shows he has an awareness of what might happen, or possibly could happen.”
Lopez said she heard Butts on the phone telling his attorney that he did not want the death penalty; he wanted to do his time at the state hospital.
“I know his thoughts are clear, because he did communicate with us. He communicated very well,” said Lopez. "We set up monitoring 24 hours a day. We have the staff charting on an hourly basis."
Butts’ attorneys, however, claim he’s pre-disposed to mental health problems because he was born prematurely, had a head injury that could aggravate schizophrenia, and he has relatives who have mental health issues. They told the judge Butts would not answer any of their questions about what was happening today. Instead, he asked if he could have a basketball and said he needed to see a doctor.
Butts’ attorneys said if there is a trial, they want it moved out of Columbia County.
The hearing is expected to last through Thursday.