Butts' lawyers argue he's not mentally fit for trial

Butts' lawyers argue he's not mentally fit for trial

ST. HELENS, Ore. - The judge made no decision Thursday on whether the man charged with killing a beloved Oregon police chief is mentally fit for trial.

Daniel Butts is accused of shooting Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter in the head last January.

During a competency hearing, attorneys tried to convince Circuit Judge Ted Grove that Butts can't help in his own defense. To make their case, the attorneys introduced 1,400 pages of documents for Grove to read, which means a decision on Butts' mental fitness could still take some time.

Like on Wednesday, Butts didn't pay attention to the testimony in his hearing. But on Thursday, he was fixated on a tablet computer in front of him. He read and typed on it, hardly looking up.

His attorneys declined to discuss what he was doing on the tablet while they argued before the judge he suffers from a psychotic disorder and is not capable of helping them prepare a defense to the charges against him.

Butts could face the death penalty if he's tried and convicted of murdering Painter. However, if the judge decides he can't help his attorneys, he'll go to the state mental hospital in Salem.

Prosecutors called on detectives to testify that their conversations with Butts after Painter was shot were normal.

"The conversation was – I would describe it as easy and natural," said Detective Patty Rhodes with Oregon State Police. "It flowed; it was not forced, pleasant. In fact, one time he actually cursed and apologized to me for cursing."

The defense called its own psychiatrist to testify that he and others observed a variety of behavior indicating mental illness, such as crying and laughing at inappropriate times and standing on top of the toilet while using it.

Dr. Jerry Larsen said he diagnosed Butts with mental illness, perhaps schizophrenia, based on his behavior and his family, who he found also suffered from mental-health disorders.

"When you get the same story, the same signs, the same symptoms from all of these different people, it's certainly unreasonable to think they're all biased and they all are making this up. It just doesn't happen," he said.

That testimony contradicted the conclusion state doctors testified they reached, which is that Butts is not schizophrenic and should be able to go on trial.