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 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 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