GALVESTON

For the first time since his arrest on May 18, 2018, in connection with the most deadly school shooting in Texas history, Dimitrios Pagourtzis appeared in an open courtroom Monday.

Wearing a green Galveston County Jail jumpsuit, chained around the waist and handcuffed, Pagourtzis, 19, was led into the courtroom minutes before the start of a hearing during which attorneys argued whether his trial, still months away, should be moved out of Galveston County.

Pagourtzis is accused of killing 10 people and shooting 14 others inside Santa Fe High School on May 18, 2018.

He is charged with capital murder of multiple persons and aggravated assault of a public servant and has been held without bond since his arrest.

In a hearing punctuated at times by a passing thunderstorm, Pagourtzis’ lawyer argued he should receive the same treatment as others accused of mass murder.

The trials of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, serial killer Ted Bundy and Washington D.C. sniper Lee Malvo all were moved out of the jurisdictions where they happened because of concern about whether the accused would receive fair trials, defense attorney Nick Poehl said.

With that comparison in mind, Pagourtzis’ trial should be moved out of Galveston County, Poehl argued.

“We have this process the code envisions, that certain cases, because of their notoriety, their emotional impact, simply present too great a challenge to afford a defendant due process,” Poehl said.

Poehl pointed in particular to social media comments as evidence that Galveston County’s jury pool was tainted with people who had made up their minds about the Pagourtzis case.

Some of the commenters said Pagourtzis should be killed or burned, Poehl said.

“This is the community,” Poehl said. “This is them telling us what they’re thinking.”

Arguing against the motion, Galveston County District Attorney Jack Roady said Poehl hadn’t proven the social media comments about Pagourtzis came from people in Galveston County, and even if they had, it didn’t prove those people wouldn’t act fairly if chosen for a jury.

Accurate local news reporting about factual events was not reason enough to claim a jury pool was tainted, Roady said. Local officials had also been successful at keeping many details, such as video evidence and detailed descriptions of what happened inside the school that day, out of the news, he said.

“There are no videos out there,” Roady said. “There are no recordings; there are no detailed statements.”

His office and other agencies had resisted news media requests seeking to make those things public, he said.

“The fact that there was a lot of media coverage is not enough,” Roady said.

Judge John Ellisor planned to make a decision about whether to move the trial by the end of the week, he said.

The hearing was notable because it was Pagourtzis’ first appearance in a courtroom since the shooting happened. In January, he appeared at a hearing by video conference.

Pagourtzis was silent as the attorneys made their arguments, and did not interact with any of the dozens of people, many of them victims or families of victims, that attended the hearing.

As he walked in, one person sobbed audibly.

A bailiff watching over the group in the jury assembly room announced that people who were unable to control themselves would be asked to leave.

No one left.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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(7) comments

Doug Sivyer

Save the taxpayers money and judiciary's time. Just get straight to the execution please.

Carlos Ponce

Sorry Doug, because of his age (17) he cannot be executed.
See Roper v Simmons
By a vote of 5-4, the U.S. Supreme Court on March 1, 2005 held that the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments forbid the execution of offenders who were under the age of 18 when their crimes were committed.
Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority (Kennedy, Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, and Stevens).
https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/04pdf/03-633.pdf
A lot of people in Santa Fe share your sentiments.

George Croix

I'd really like to be around at least 20 more years so I can have seen both grandchildren graduated from college and making their own way in the world.
IF that happens, I suspect I'll still be reading about this killer as he sits in prison as the endless appeals designed to enhance the bank accounts of defense lawyers as much as provide 'justice' play out.....
The 'candlelight vigils' by 'concerned citizens' outside the prison for the put upon criminal will just be more icing on the cake.....

Jim Forsythe

If he is found guilty of these crimes, the following is what may happen to him. Remember he was 17 at the time this happened.
Since he was a juvenile ( under the age of 18) he may not be put to death for this crime that would be capital offenses in adult court, even though juveniles still may be transferred to adult court for certain offenses. He also will be up for parole after about 40 years, as juveniles must be offered parole. .

George Croix

Much as it galls me, fact is...imo, anyway.... he SHOULD get a change of venue, because there's not a person in this county capable of seeing and/or hearing who hasn't been all over this killing spree, and I'd bet my F150 4x4 bed full of cold Diet Coke that every last one of them has formed an opinion on it.
Yes, in THIS County that does not necessarily lead one way or the other, but there's pretty much zero doubt that a jury pool isn't just tainted but poisoned.......


Carlos Ponce

A change of venue would mean travel time for his victims and the families of those slain. As indicated by the article they are present in the courthouse. Some of those he wounded are still in school but are willing to testify against him and see justice carried out in person.

George Croix

I didn't say what I WANTED to happen, but rather what I thought SHOULD happen if any pretense of a fair trial is to be made.
Personally, if solely up to me, I'd dispense with the pretense.....but, I'm not the one in charge or with the authority to do so...and I am not in favor of pulling down the statues of Lady Justice just because I figure there will be no real justice here, no matter the trial outcome....

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