Daniel Butts, the 22-year-old man accused of gunning down Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter in January 2011, is “gaming the system” and can aid in his own defense, a judge ruled Thursday.
Columbia County Circuit Court Judge Ted Grove said “it is not my intention to determine his mental health as I do not find that his behavior, while most disturbing, (is) other than calculated.”
Evidence indicated that Butts modified his behavior when he realized he was being observed at the Oregon State Hospital and changed his behavior when doctors told him he was harming his health, the judge said.
All that supports “a finding that the defendant is gaming the system,” Grove concluded.
Butts, of Kalama, Wash., was arrested on Jan. 5 after police say he wrested Painter’s gun away and then shot the chief in the head. A Columbia County grand jury indicted Butts on nine counts of aggravated murder, which could carry the death penalty, and other charges including attempted aggravated murder, robbery, burglary, theft and unauthorized use of a vehicle.
Butts was not at the judge’s ruling (read the ruling here) Thursday, but his father, Mikel Butts said afterward that his son needs help. He called Painter “a bully with a badge… maybe he got what he deserved. Maybe he was so full of himself he was going to take care of it his way… there’s another side to the story.”
Grove will now schedule a trial for Daniel Butts.
In December and again in January, Judge Grove heard expert testimony from mental health professionals, as well as police officers, on Butts’ behavior before and after the shooting.
The hearings weren’t held to determine Butts’ mental state at the time of the shooting, but whether he is able to assist his defense attorneys during a trial. In the past year, Butts was evaluated several times both at the Columbia County Jail and at the state hospital in Salem, where he stayed for 20 days in July.
Closing arguments were made a month ago by Columbia County District Attorney Steve Atchison, and Butts’ attorney, Patrick Sweeney.
Dr. Jerry Larsen testified in early hearings that Butts likely suffers from schizophrenia.
Butts’ sister told Larsen that shortly before the shooting, Butts believed he could foretell the future. “That’s a delusion and part of his psychosis,” Larsen testified.
But Judge Grove repeated testimony given by forensic psychologist Brooke Howard of the Oregon State Hospital, who testified that Butts behavior were purposeful and “not the product of mental disease or defect.” He said Butts had recently been Tasered at the Columbia County Jail due to disruptive and fighting behavior, and had stabbed himself in the face and neck with a pencil.
Painter’s widow, who was accompanied by family members, declined to comment on the ruling.
Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson said “The judge rendered a good decision based on all the facts and what we’ve seen over the past year. I think we’re ready for trial.”
Judge Grove said he would schedule a conference to set a trial date “at the next available date.”