GALVESTON COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- The alleged Santa Fe School shooter will be evaluated by an outside mental health expert to determine his competency.
Judge Jeth Jones appointed Dr. Joseph Penn, the director of mental health services for UTMB, to do an independent mental evaluation on Dimitrios Pagourtzis. That report should be done in 30 days.
The court will then meet again to determine if Pagourtzis is competent to stand trial. The next status conference is set for May 5.
The now-22-year-old has been housed at the North Texas State Hospital since December 2019.
The motion was brought by Judge Jones, who inherited the case in January when he was elected to the bench.
Prosecutors did not object to the motion, but the defense did.
Defense attorney Nick Poehl said he had a problem with the judge ignoring parts of the law and his lack of knowledge of the defendant's mental health background. He said there are more than 800 pages of records from the state hospital.
"We're not opposed to him being evaluated as many times as anyone wants, but the fact is he's been evaluated over and over and over again at Vernon State Hospital," the defense said. "At some point, I have to ask, 'What is this about?'"
Judge Jones said that the state hospital has failed at its job of restoring Pagourtzis to competency.
"Saying that he feels like North Texas Hospital has failed, I found very troubling, and as I said, these are not people who work for me," Poehl said. "These are doctors, nurses, professionals that have one job: to restore Dimitrios and others to competency. The reality, as the judge, a former defense attorney should know, is that there are some people who can't be restored."
The state is optimistic as the victims' families have been waiting a long time for this.
Pagourtzis is charged with capital murder for the 2018 shooting rampage that left 10 dead and 13 others hurt.
The mother of one of the Santa Fe High School victims, Chris Stone, says she liked what she heard.
"I'm happy to hear about the evaluation. It's very important. We can't keep living like this," Rosie Yanas Stone said.
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In 2018, Rosie's son used his body as a human barricade to keep the shooter, identified by authorities as Pagourtzis, out of the classroom.
Rhonda Hart, whose daughter Kimberly was killed, said she had stayed away from the court proceedings in the past but felt compelled to attend this hearing.
"When you're dealing with a mass shooting or a school shooting like this, it's never a question of 'Who did it?'" Hart said. "We know who did it. We know you went in there. You bought the gun. You pulled the trigger. Let's just stop messing around and get to it. We all want to know what happened and for him to face the consequences of his actions."
Briefly, at the end of the hearing, Judge Jones mentioned that there would be a discussion in the future about the possibility of bringing the trial back to Galveston County from Fort Bend if it reaches that point.
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