Butts hearings off, trial still on
A scheduled court appearance for Daniel Butts was canceled earlier this week, but trial dates remain in place for February 2019.
Butts, 29, is charged with aggravated murder, burglary, aggravated attempted murder and other charges, stemming from the 2011 killing of Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter near a car stereo shop in Rainier.
If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Butts was scheduled to be transported earlier this week for a series of hearings requested by his attorneys. The hearings were scheduled after Columbia Circuit Judge Ted Grove ruled in July that the defendant is mentally capable of standing trial.
Butts has been committed to Oregon State Hospital since shortly after his arrest in 2011, where he has been monitored and treated for signs of schizophrenia.
Butts' mental state has been at the core of trial delays. In his ruling, Grove acknowledged that the defendant "suffers from schizophrenia," but noted, "his symptoms have greatly diminished as a result of his current hospitalization and forced medication."
During interviews with a doctor, that were transcribed and provided in court documents, Butts said he recalled being pepper-sprayed during the incident in January 2011, and told the interviewer he was "feeling mentally ill" for months before the shooting.
"I thought I could fly. I mean, I didn't really think I could fly but that's how crazy it was," Butts is recorded as stating to Dr. Richard Adler during an interview in 2017, saying he considered walking into traffic and was "lucky he didn't die."
Butts described the event on Jan. 5, 2011, noting he attempted to start a car on display inside a car audio shop, "because the keys were in it," and recalled being pepper-sprayed, then punching who he thought pepper-sprayed him.
"And then after I punched him I realized he was a cop and I thought maybe he would shoot me for punching him so I took his gun from him and then I accidentally shot him with it," Butts told Dr. Adler. "I wouldn't have even pointed the gun at him I only pointed it at him because I thought he was going to shoot me. I was still amped up."
The hearings that were scheduled would have allowed Butts' defense team to contest the judge's ruling that he is psychologically stable enough to move forward with a trial that is scheduled to begin in February. The appearances were canceled shortly before their scheduled start date at the request of the defense attorneys.
Jeff Auxier, Columbia County district attorney, said the cancellations may not have any impact on the trial dates.
"From the state's perspective, we don't see any relation between the hearings and those trial dates," Auxier noted.
Oregon State Hospital issues an evaluation of Butts every six months, Auxier noted. Those reports get filed with the court.
In February, during a series of hearings to evaluate the suspect's mental capacity, state prosecutors, including Auxier, pointed to video evidence, as well as medical reports and interviews with Butts that indicated he understands the charges he faces and the legal options available to him.
Butts is scheduled to appear in court for a murder trial in February.