Is he fit for trial? Columbia County judge to determine competency for accused cop killer

Daniel Butts during a competency hearing in February 2018 (KATU News photo)

A judge is set to determine whether a man who hears voices and has delusions is fit to stand trial for murder.

Daniel Butts is accused of murdering Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter back in 2011. Butts was found competent to stand trial in February 2012, but officials later decided he required further evaluation. His trial is now on hold.

READ MORE: Competency hearing underway for man accused of killing Rainier police chief

In order to be found fit to stand trial, the prosecution must prove three things: Is Butts able to understand the proceedings? Can he assist and cooperate with his council? Is he able to participate in his defense?

Doctors who have been treating Butts are split on those answers. Some believe he's ready to stand trial, while others believe he's incompetent.

READ MORE: 6 years later and still no justice for Rainier police chief killed in line of duty

The most recent psychiatrist brought forth by the defense Thursday said Butts is not ready. Dr. Richard Adler said Butts should not stand trial -- now or possibly ever.

In court, a number of interviews Butts has had with psychologists were played for the judge. From those interviews we learned Butts’ take on the day Chief Painter was killed.

“I squeezed [the trigger] and I shot him but that was on accident. So I guess that means 'not guilty' because it was on accident. I didn’t mean to kill somebody. I was in fear,” Butts said in session transcripts.

In the end, the official decision will be made by the judge.

This week Butts has remained silent, sitting nearly perfectly still throughout the whole week.

In 2013, a Columbia County courtroom saw a very different version of Butts. He was fidgety and shaky, and at times even rocking back and forth.

One of Butts’ psychiatrists testified Thursday that Butts freely states what he thinks the outcome of a trial should they go to trial would be.

“Mr. Butts felt he was less likely than others to be charged with the same offense to be found guilty. And when I asked what his reason for that belief was he said, 'Because I'm not guilty, I got pepper sprayed,” Dr. Adler said.

Since being declared unfit to stand trial, Butts has remained in a state hospital where he has received medication and counseling.

This time, if Butts is declared competent, trial will begin in February 2019. If not, he could be sent back to the state hospital for more treatment.

The hearing is expected to wrap up Friday, and the judge could give his decision or take the matter under advisement to rule at another time.

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