Jury rejects insanity defense, convicts former school administrator of arson
By JOE LAMBE and DAWN BORMANN
The Kansas City Star
An assistant school principal was mentally ill when he entered his estranged wife’s home in Olathe, took purses and burned her car but how mentally ill?
Johnson County jurors decided on Friday that his actions did not meet the extreme threshold for a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.
Jurors found Craig Butler, 36, guilty of felony arson and misdemeanor criminal damage to property for the crimes on Aug. 24 and Aug. 25, 2008. They found him not guilty of a more serious infraction, a charge of aggravated burglary.
To be found not guilty and sent to state mental care, Butler had to be so mentally ill at the time that he could not have intended to commit the crimes.
In closing arguments, assistant prosecutor Michael McElhinney said, “All three doctors agree he had the intent.”
Defense lawyer Paul Morrison countered that the doctors also agreed that “he was so psychotic at the time he committed this crime he didn’t know up from down.”
Butler was hallucinating and hearing voices from “The Chronicles of Narnia” characters when he entered the home while his wife, Tracy Butler, and another woman were there, the defense contended.
At the time, the former science teacher in the Shawnee Mission School District was an assistant principal at Rosedale Middle School in Kansas City, Kan.
He had started experiencing psychotic symptoms, witnesses said, and Butler testified that he got an antidepressant medication from a co-worker. The medication sent him into mania, the defense contended.
He entered the house in the 600 block of South Grant, did $1,000 damage to furniture, dishes and electronics, took purses and then burned the car and his legs. He dumped the purses in Lawrence.
He resigned from his assistant principal job in September 2008, got treatment and took a job in August 2009 as principal of Stanton County High School in western Kansas. He was suspended from that job in April pending the outcome of the trial. He is now divorced.
Morrison asked mercy for his client: “This is about a man’s life. This is about whether you decide to stamp him as a burglar, stamp him as an arsonist.”
McElhinney countered, “He’s already branded himself.”
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