Judge to rule whether Butts is mentally fit for trial

ST. HELENS, Ore. - The man accused of murdering Rainier, Ore. Police Chief Ralph Painter could face the death penalty if he goes to trial, but the lawyers representing Daniel Butts say he's not mentally fit to help them prepare his defense.

Butts' competency hearing began Wednesday at the Columbia County Courthouse. The judge did not make a decision. The hearing will continue Thursday.

If Butts is found mentally competent he will face trial on 24 charges, including aggravated murder. If the judge rules Butts cannot help his defense attorneys with his case, he will go to the state mental hospital in Salem, Ore.

Prosecutors say Chief Painter responded to a call about a stolen car stereo in January when Butts wrestled his gun away from him and shot him.

Wednesday, Butts did not appear interested in listening to his attorneys argue that he suffers from a mental disorder.

State Doctor Brooke Howard testified that she thinks his bizarre behavior does not make him mentally unfit.

"I don't see any other evidence of symptoms suggesting he was experiencing psychosis at that time," said Howard.

The hearing will continue Wednesday with the defense calling its own doctors to argue that Butts suffers from a mental illness.