SANTA FE

A state-appointed psychiatrist hired by prosecutors has declared accused mass murderer Dimitrios Pagourtzis incompetent to stand trial, attorneys said Monday.

Pagourtzis, 19, is accused of killing 10 people and wounding 13 others in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in May 2018. He was 18 at the time of the shooting.

The capital murder trial against Pagourtzis was scheduled to begin in Fort Bend County in February. After Monday’s announcement, however, that date is off the table, defense attorney Nick Poehl said.

“The state’s expert came back and agreed that he was not competent,” Poehl said. “The state agreed to not contest that anymore.”

Pagourtzis’ attorneys and prosecutors met Monday morning with 122nd District Court Judge John Ellisor to discuss the psychiatrist’s determination. The judge agreed to lift a gag order that had been in place and to later this week finalize an order finding Pagourtzis incompetent, Poehl said.

Monday’s decision brings to an end months of back-and-forth between parties over Pagourtzis’ mental competency, which included examinations by three different mental-health experts.

Poehl in August filed a motion requesting an independent psychiatrist evaluate Pagourtzis to determine whether he was competent to stand trial, court records show.

Pagourtzis’ mental health had deteriorated since he was arrested, and he had no understanding of the legal proceedings underway against him, Poehl said in an affidavit.

Pagourtzis has been held in isolation since he was booked into the county jail May 18, 2018.

Initially, he was held in a single cell, and later held by himself in an entire wing of the jail, Sheriff Henry Trochesset said.

Trochesset declined to say how long Pagourtzis was held in each condition, citing a request from the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office.

Pagourtzis was isolated out of concern for his safety if he were put into a general jail population, Trochesset said.

In September, Ellisor ordered Houston psychologist Karen Gollaher to evaluate Pagourtzis. Gollaher was intended to be an outside expert, independent of both prosecutors and Pagourtzis’ defense team.

Ellisor more recently ordered Houston psychiatrist Dr. Victor R. Scarano, an expert hired by the District Attorney’s Office, be allowed to examine Pagourtzis and evaluate his competency. It was the third evaluation done on Pagourtzis, after Gollaher’s and one completed by his defense team.

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 was committed, Poehl said.

Competency is about a person’s state of mind in the present.

Ellisor initially appointed Scarano as the independent expert, but later appointed Gollaher because Scarano had already been hired as an expert witness by prosecutors.

Now that Pagourtzis is officially found incompetent, both sides plan to expedite the process, Poehl said.

“The next step is to get him a bed in a state psychiatric facility,” Poehl said. “There’s been some media coverage recently, the wait times to get a bed can get long — somewhere in the seven to eight months.”

But attorneys plan to try and speed up that process, Poehl said.

If the judge ultimately finds Pagourtzis incompetent, as expected, then the court is required to send Pagourtzis to a mental health facility for a maximum of 120 days, at which point he will return before the court for a competency restoration determination, officials said.

If still found incompetent, attorneys have several options, Petroff said in a previous interview with The Daily News. But for a violent offense, the state can seek to have him committed to a maximum security unit.

Pagourtzis could then be re-examined at any time if the state, defense or facility requests it, Petroff said

Matt deGrood: 409-683-5230; matt.degrood@galvnews.com

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(7) comments

Carlos Ponce

All mass killers are mentally deranged lunatics. Is that a reason to delay the trial? Unless the killer is called to testify the answer is "NO".

Jim Forsythe

Carlos, at this time the court has deemed him incompetent to stand trial. He needs to be in his right mind before he can face prosecution. This is not about his state of mind at the time of the crime. He may never be ruled competent to stand trial.

Below is the standard they go by.

"When a defendant’s mental state restricts the person from understanding or comprehending the charges in their case, the court deems them incompetent to stand trial.If a person is incapable of understanding the charges they’re facing, the individual will not stand trial, regardless of how overwhelming the evidence is against them. It doesn’t matter if the person confessed to committing the crime, or if the prosecutor has undeniable evidence that proves the person’s guilt — if the defendant doesn’t have the mental capacity to stand trial, the court can’t proceed with the case."

It doesn’t matter if the person confessed to committing the crime, or if the prosecutor has undeniable evidence that proves the person’s guilt — if the defendant doesn’t have the mental capacity to stand trial, the court can’t proceed with the case.

Competency is about a person’s state of mind in the present.

“The next step is to get him a bed in a state psychiatric facility,”

Carlos Ponce

"He needs to be in his right mind before he can face prosecution."

He is not an essential part of the proceedings. He is not going to take the stand. He can be tried in absentia with the same results. In the meanwhile the parents, family, friends of those killed and school administration must wait. They want closure to the killings as soon as possible. Plans are already in place to transport those involved by bus to the hearing. Question is ...when? As soon as possible if you ask them. The evidence, eyewitnesses, camera footage can all be used without his presence. Will the conclusion be any different? What possible evidence could exonerate him or lessen the sentence? Rumor has it the boy was "bullied" by a coach. Did he go after the coach? No, even though the art classes where the shootings took place are in the same section as the gym. He went after the young lady who turned down his advances publicly. HE SHOT HER TWICE IN THE FACE! Any female has a right to say "NO!"

We have a table set up in the Santa Fe Old School Museum hallway displaying the pictures of those slain. It reminds me of an "ofrenda". I pass by it multiple times each day the museum is open offering prayers for the deceased and asking closure for the friends and family. This delay is not welcome.

Jim Forsythe

Carlos, at this time the court has deemed him incompetent to stand trial, so no proceedings.

As far as absentia, he is not in a mental state to understanding or comprehending the charges in his case. It would be a violation of his right to be present in court proceedings in his criminal trial.

Carlos, if a judge was to allow absentia, it would setup grounds for appeal.

"Trials in absentia are exceedingly rare—most judges and attorneys will never be involved with one. The procedure doesn’t jibe with the notion of due process, especially the constitutional right of the accused to confront witnesses. So, judges are careful to make sure that a defendant’s absence is truly voluntary, rather than the result of foul play, ill health, or lack of notice, lest they create grounds for an appeal."

Carlos Ponce

So I see there is no sympathy for the family and friends of the victims.Their suffering will continue. It's all about the CRIMINAL.

Gary Scoggin

Whether in a mental institution or in a prison I take solace in the fact that he will be behind bars for the rest of his life.

Carlos Ponce

"for the rest of his life" I hope so. Sometimes a life sentence doesn't mean "life". "Under current state [Texas] law, a person sentenced to life, regardless of age, is potentially eligible for parole after 40 years." "State Rep. Joseph Moody‘s [D-El Paso] House Bill 256 proposes allowing young people sentenced to life in prison for crimes committed before the age of 18 to be eligible for parole after spending 20 years in prison."

https://www.galvnews.com/news/article_e7d1d747-e1ca-5702-a7a4-5de8fc726273.html

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