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Medication question undecided in Butts case

Sending Daniel Butts to the Oregon State Hospital has been more complicated than officials thought it would be.

The 23-year-old man accused of killing Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter in 2011 was deemed incompetent to stand trial at a hearing in February. Columbia Circuit Court Judge Ted Grove ordered him back to the State Hospital where he would be required to take anti-psychotic drugs. Butts has previously refused all forms of medical treatment.

But, said Columbia County District Attorney Stephen Atchison, it turns out the judge can’t bundle these orders together. The State Hospital requires a separate order, with a half-dozen different findings to support the decision, if Butts is to be medicated without his consent.

In an amended decision dated March 5, Grove committed Butts to the custody of the State Hospital and outlined a specific timeline for doctors to evaluate Butts and report back the court. The order for involuntary medication has not been filed yet.

Butts was admitted to the State Hospital on March 11 and Atchison said that, while he expects the involuntary medication order to be filed in the next few days, there may not be a need for it.

“Maybe we’ll see when he gets down there that he’ll decide to take his medications,” Atchison said. “Then you don’t need the order.”

Butts will remain at the hospital until mental health professionals determine he is competent. According to State Hospital Records, more than half of those committed on “aid and assist” holds returned to court to face the charges against them. The average stay was a little more than three months.

At the February hearing, Butts’ attorneys argued their client suffers from mental illness, possibly some form of schizophrenia. Atchison, however, believes Butts is faking.

Grove has ruled now on both sides of the issue. At a previous hearing, he said he believed Butts was “gaming the system,” but in his recent decision to send Butts to the State Hospital, he noted Butts had acted bizarre and unstable. Groves wrote, “The only way to resolve this dispute is to eliminate the continuing concern of mental illness. Failure to do so at this stage risks grave problems down the road.”