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Murder suspect in police chief death will be forcibly medicated

Photo Credit: FILE PHOTO - Amy Painter, widow of the late Rainier Police Chief, Ralph Painter, talks to news media in March 2013 after a court hearing in the murder trial for Daniel Butts. Butts is accused of shooting and killing Ralph Painter in 2011.

Daniel A. Butts, the man charged with the 2011 shooting death of Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter, will be brought back to the Oregon State Hospital, where he is to be forcibly medicated, a judge ruled Monday, Sept. 29.

The order was approved by Columbia County Circuit Judge Ted Grove Monday afternoon, in a packed courtroom in St. Helens.

“It authorizes the involuntary administration of medication to Mr. Butts,” Grove said, reading from the order.

Family and friends of Painter filled the wooden benches in the courtroom, along with observers and media. Butts, 25, did not appear for the brief hearing, which started more than 35 minutes late and was over in less than three minutes.

Prior to Monday's status hearing, Butts' trial seemed to be at a standstill as questions lingered about his mental state.

A few years ago, doctors at an OSH facility said Butts, a resident of Kalama, Wash., did not have a mental illness, according to Columbia County District Attorney Stephen Atchison. Despite the conclusion from state hospital doctors, Grove determined in March 2013 that Butts was not fit to stand trial.

Since Butts was taken into custody in 2011, new cases have developed which have impacted the way his case is being handled, Atchison said.

“Before, judges didn't feel they had the [ability] to order forced medication,” Atchison explained Tuesday.

The case stagnated until Monday, when Butts' defense attorneys produced an affidavit from independent psychiatric expert Richard Adler, who concluded Butts has a serious psychiatric disorder marked by psychosis. The court documents indicate Adler's findings are consistent with those of three other psychiatrists who observed Butts.

Adler prescribed a low dosage of risperidone tablets to combat symptoms of psychosis, according to the court documents.

The order Grove handed down Monday authorizes medical staff to administer the anti-psychotic medication to Butts, whether he complies or not.

“We have been trying get him into a position where he can be treated so that we can attempt to get him fit for trial,” Atchison said. “That generally requires medication. Defense experts say he needs medication. The state experts say, 'Well, we're not sure.'”

The order states the medication is “substantially likely” to get Butts healthy enough to stand trial, without producing substantial side effects.

However, Rupert Goetz, OSH's chief medical officer, said there can be risks associated with involuntary medication if a patient refuses to take pills.

"There are additional risks associated with restraint to give the medication by injection, or associated with being forced to choose a medication that is available in injectable form, when a more effective medication is available only orally," Goetz stated via email. Goetz said a patient is heavily monitored for side effects and cognition once a new medication is administered.

Butts has been in custody at the Multnomah County Detention Center since being released from the hospital. Medication will be given to him via injection if he refuses to ingest tablets. He is slated to be evaluated within 60 days of the beginning of the treatment process, in order to determine whether he may be fit to stand trial in the future.

After the hearing, family of the late police chief expressed mixed emotions.

“I really don't know what to think,” Amy Painter, widow of the slain police chief, said. “It just seems like another setback.”

Another court hearing in the case is set for Jan. 15, 2015.

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

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