ST. HELENS, Ore. -- A mental competency hearing began Wednesday in St. Helens to determine whether Daniel Butts is able to assist in his defense at a murder trial in the shooting death of Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter.
Lawyers for the 23-year-old Kalama, Wash., man said he doesn't communicate and can't help them, but Columbia County prosecutors disagree and say the case should go to trial.
In court Wednesday, Butts wore a stun device around his midsection and around his legs. His attorneys asked for the devices to be removed, but the judge denied the request.
A defense attorney suggested Butts has schizophrenia and comes from a family with mental health issues. But the District Attorney pushed back against that, questioning a state hospital doctor who examined him.
Butts’ attorney said his actions during Wednesday’s hearing suggest he cannot aid in his own defense.
Butts’ family and Ralph Painter’s wife and other family members were in the courtroom.
In testimony Wednesday, a state psychiatrist who evaluated Butts said his behavior dramatically improved when he got to the state hospital.
Butts could face the death penalty if convicted.
Painter was shot to death in January 2011 while responding to a disturbance call in a stereo shop. At one hearing last year, a judge ruled Butts was faking mental illness.
KGW Reporters Art Edwards and Pat Dooris contributed to this report