Judge weighing whether Butts' is mentally ill

Judge weighing whether Butts' is mentally ill

ST. HELENS, Ore. - A Columbia County judge said he will wait two weeks before deciding whether the man accused of shooting and killing Rainier's police chief will go to trial or to the state mental hospital instead.

Daniel Butts faces the death penalty if tried for shooting Ralph Painter last January during a struggle on the floor of an audio shop in Rainier.

His court-appointed attorneys argued Tuesday he is mentally ill and unable to help them prepare a defense. The prosecution, however, contended that is a convenient way to avoid facing trial for murder and Butts is able to help his attorneys defend him.

The judge has a lot of evidence to weigh, including more than 1,000 pages of documents, testimony and video. He said he needs the time.

While his life has been under scrutiny, Butts has appeared to be in his own world during his competency hearing. Butts' attorneys said he's given them no help preparing his defense and should be sent to the state mental hospital.

"This is not going to change what's going to happen here," said Patrick Sweeney, Butts' attorney. "If he's faking this behavior, it's not going to change the outcome. (Send him) to the state hospital and treat him until fit. Not dismissing the charges, we're not even talking about that."

"The defense says: well, let's just delay this awhile, delay isn't going to hurt anything. But it's been my experience in 30-odd years of trying cases that delay never helps the state, it always helps the defense – because witnesses die, evidence goes away, it gets stale. The sooner you get a case to trial, it's always better," said District Attorney Steve Atchison.