TEXAS — Lawyers for a guy accused of killing 10 people in a high school shooting in Texas in 2018 want the judge overseeing the case dismissed because they claim he is biased in favor of having experts rule that the former student is competent to stand trial.
Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 22, was found unfit to stand trial and has been a patient at the North Texas State Hospital in Vernon since early December 2019.
Pagourtzis, a student at Santa Fe High School on May 18, 2018, and 17 at the time of the attack, has been charged with capital murder. In the school, roughly 35 miles (55 kilometers) southeast of Houston, eight kids, and two teachers died.
Pagourtzis was ordered to remain in custody at the hospital for up to an additional year by state District Judge Jeth Jones in February.
Yet, in a last-minute hearing last week, Jones mandated that Pagourtzis be assessed by a third party to ascertain his ability.
The attorneys for Pagourtzis claimed in their application to remove Jones on Tuesday that they think the judge is out to appoint new experts every week and that Jones intends to locate experts who will decide their client is capable of standing trial.
The state hospital’s medical staff “might not desire to see” Pagourtzis restored to competency so that he might be tried, according to Jones, who said as much in a meeting on January 26. Attorney Nicholas Poehl stated this in the motion for recusal.
Galveston County District Attorney Jack Roady stated in a statement that he opposes the action to remove the judge on behalf of his office, which is prosecuting Pagourtzis.
On Wednesday, a call and email to Jones’ office requesting comment were unanswered. The judge informed the Houston Chronicle that he could not respond to the motion and had instead forwarded it to Susan Brown, the presiding judge for the six-county area, including Galveston County.
Brown has the option of hearing the movement herself or by designating another judge. There are no upcoming court dates for the motion. As soon as Jones was elected in November, he took up the case.
According to the motion, the court secretly requested that the state hospital do another competency evaluation after ordering Pagourtzis to remain in the hospital for another year. The hospital concluded that Pagourtzis remained incompetent.
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After that, Jones conducted a hearing last week during which he commissioned a review by an outside expert. Family members of those slain or hurt have expressed frustration that the matter has not gone to trial, prompting the judge’s recent steps.
Additionally, they claim that they have been denied access to case materials like autopsy reports and security footage, which would reveal more details about the dying moments of their loved ones.
The state Legislature’s current session is considering a bill granting access to such evidence without making it public to the relatives of crime victims.
“Judge Jones’ proposed scheme appears to be designed to either create the appearance to the public as if the Court is doing something or to eventually arrive at the specific result of … (Pagourtzis) being found competent,” Poehl wrote. __ Tweets about Juan A. Lozano.
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