Attorneys representing Dimitrios Pagourtzis want an independent psychiatrist to determine whether he’s competent to stand trial in the shooting deaths of 10 people and injury of more than a dozen at Santa Fe High School last year.

The attorneys argue Pagourtzis’ mental health has been questionable from the start and has declined to an extent that he’s unable to comprehend the legal proceedings underway against him.

An evaluation of Pagourtzis’ mental health could delay a trial on state capital murder charges set to begin early next year.

Pagourtzis’ attorneys filed a motion Monday seeking the evaluation.

The documents claim that since the day of his arrest, Pagourtzis has “shown signs of mental illness” and that he lacks the acuity to consult with his attorneys.

“Mr. Pagourtzis’ mental state has fluctuated and more recently deteriorated,” said Nick Poehl, a defense attorney, in an affidavit regarding Pagourtzis’ competency.

“His mental state has degraded to the point where there is no understanding of the matter and the proceedings,” Poehl said in the affidavit.

Defense experts already had evaluated Pagourtzis and experts working for the prosecutors were doing so now, Poehl said in an interview Monday.

The defense wants Pagourtzis evaluated by an expert independent of the two sides, he said.

Asking for a competency hearing is not the same as pleading insanity, Poehl said.

An insanity defense is about a person’s mental state at the time a crime is committed, Poehl said.

“Competency is about your ability to stand trial,” Poehl said. “He’s deteriorated and it’s not at all evident he understands what’s going on.”

Pagourtzis is accused of killing 10 people inside Santa Fe High School on May 18, 2018. He’s been charged with capital murder of multiple persons and of aggravated assault against a public servant.

The public servant in the latter charge is Santa Fe Independent School District Police officer John Barnes, who was one of 13 people injured during the shooting, prosecutors said.

Pagourtzis was arrested inside the high school May 18 and has been in custody, segregated from other inmates in the Galveston County Jail, ever since, officials said.

The Galveston County District Attorney’s Office declined to comment Monday afternoon. Poehl didn’t expect prosecutors to oppose his motion.

If Pagourtzis were judged incompetent, he might be transferred to a state mental health facility to receive treatment for six months before being reevaluated, Poehl said.

That would delay his trial, which is scheduled to begin in February in Fort Bend County.

Pagourtzis’ fate could ultimately be tied to whether he’s also ruled incompetent to stand trial for 11 federal charges leveled against him in April. Those charges are sealed, because Pagourtzis, under federal law, was considered to be a minor when the shooting happened.

Pagourtzis is being represented by a federal public defender. It’s unclear whether that attorney also is asking for a competency hearing.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; or on Twitter @johnwferguson.


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(9) comments

Gary Scoggin

My main concern is that he spend the rest of his life incarcerated somewhere. Whether it's in a psychiatric facility or in a prison matters not to me. Whatever his mental state is now, his mental state at the time of the shooting appears to be clear enough that he be held accountable for his actions.

Carlos Ponce

Put him away for good.

Bailey Jones

Lawyers doing what lawyers do. It would not surprise me that any sane person living with the guilt of his horrendous crimes would have a complete mental breakdown. Regardless, he will never be free again.


IMO when people commit mass murders on innocent humans, Congress needs to pass laws that restrict some of their legal rights and expedite trials so that we as taxpayers don't have to pay legal costs while their attorney drags the cases out for years. When it is known who was responsible let's put them away quickly.

Bailey Jones

This is all pretty basic trial stuff. And you can't skip over it, if you do then it becomes the basis for an even more expensive and time consuming appeal. As fare as "put them away quickly", he's been in jail since the day of the shooting, and he'll stay there for life. All of this is just the paperwork.

Carlos Ponce

"and he'll stay there for life" - I hope you're right.

Martin Connor

While David has a valid point, we just dont want to go changing our judicial processes. As flawed as it can be at times, we have the best judicial system in the world. Any good lawyer is going to work to minimize the penalty of his client regardless of the crime. In this case, the kid will never see the outside of a jail or prison the rest of his life. So in essence the attorney is trying to reduce the penalty from a "death sentence" to remaining alive for the foreseeable future. However, I'm not sure he would last long unless he remains in isolation the entire time.

As far as the attorney's, much of the high profile cases are free publicity. If they are able to have certain victories regardless of the outcome, their value increases and the likely hood of a big payday call will come.

Jim Forsythe

"attorney is trying to reduce the penalty from a "death sentence" He is not eligible for the death penalty, as he was a juvenile when the crime was committed.

Martin Connor

Thanks Jim. I wasn't sure of that.

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