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DA questions Butts' continued stay at state hospital

by: PHOTO COURTESY OF BILL WAGNER - Accused cop killer Daniel A. Butts kept his head down and, often, his fingers in his ears at an aid and assist hearing in March. Judge Ted Grove sent Butts back to the Oregon State Hospital for treatment. It’s been just over three months since accused cop killer Daniel A. Butts was sent back to the Oregon State Hospital for treatment. Now, prosecutors say it’s time for him to come back to the Columbia County Jail.

But at a hearing June 13, Butt’s lawyers argued for his continued commitment at the Oregon State Hospital. In March, Columbia County Circuit Court Judge Ted Grove determined the 23-year-old Kalama, Wash., man accused of killing Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter was not currently able to aid in his own defense and sent him to the hospital as an “aid and assist” patient.

Due to press deadlines, the Spotlight was not able to attend the hearing prior to the newspaper’s publication.

Before the hearing, Columbia County District Attorney said he planned to argue to bring Butts back to the Columbia County Jail. Whether or not Butts will ever return to face the charges against him is still unknown.

“We’re kind of in no man’s land, sort of waiting for things to happen,” Atchison said.

On average, more than half of the patients admitted to the Oregon State Hospital accused of serious crimes but unable to aid in their own defense at the time they begin treatment return to the courtroom to face the charges against them, according to statistics gathered by the Oregon State Hospital. The average length of stay at the hospital for such patients in 2012 was 107 days — nearly the same amount of time Butts has now spent at the hospital.

Since his arrest in 2011, Butts has refused all forms of treatment, from anti-psychotic drugs to basic first-aid for self-inflicted stab wounds. He has already been to the state hospital on two different occasions since his arrest, but psychiatrists said they could not diagnose a mental illness in him at the time. At a hearing in March, his lawyers argued that he suffered from some form of mental illness, most likely schizophrenia. Butts has consistently refused to respond to his lawyers, gone on hunger strikes and has exhibited other signs of a mental disorder, they said.

Grove, who had previously questioned Butts’ behavior, wrote in his decision to send Butts back to the hospital, “Is this a rational and calculated strategy or the product of a mental disorder? ... 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.”

The Oregon State Hospital, citing patient privacy laws, would not comment on Butts’ current mental state or whether or not he has been taking any prescribed medication.

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