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Judge orders third-party expert to do competency evaluation on accused Santa Fe school shooter

Dimitrios Pagourtzis has been at the North Texas State Hospital since 2019 when he was declared incompetent to stand trial for the shooting.

GALVESTON COUNTY, Texas — A judge on Friday appointed an independent expert to evaluate the mental competency of the accused Santa Fe school shooter.

The third-party expert will evaluate Dimitrios Pagourtzis' mental status to determine if he's now fit to stand trial. 

Survivors and families of the victims packed the courtroom on Friday for the hearing. One parent told KHOU 11's Adam Bennett that she hopes the decision continues the momentum of recent legal victories for the families.

Pagourtzis' lawyers said the hearing came together so quickly they didn't have time to arrange their client's appearance by video.

Pagourtzis has been at the North Texas State Hospital since 2019 when he was declared incompetent to stand trial for the shooting. In February, doctors at the hospital requested Pagourtzis be recommitted for another year so they could try to restore him to competency.

Newly-elected Judge Jeth Jones in the 122nd District Court now presides over the case.  

“The North Texas State Hospital has had one task over the last almost four years now. It was to restore competency. It appears they’ve failed at this point," said Judge Jones.

Galveston County District Attorney Jack Roady voiced his support for the order.

"While this development by no means guarantees that we’re going to be any closer to having a trial, it is a step forward," Roady said. 

Defense lawyers argued to move violates state law because their client's condition has stayed the same.

"We’ve reviewed the medical records. There’s no evidence that anything has changed," defense attorney Nick Poehl said.

They argued the waiting period since the last ruling on February 1 has not passed.

"As we told him in the hearing, if you wanted to do this, sign this same exact order, same exact expert, same everything on May 3, I don’t have a problem," Poehl said.

The newly ordered outside expert, Dr. Joseph Penn, will have 30 days to submit his report. Penn is a psychiatrist with UTMB Health.

Judge Jones also indicated he wants to discuss possibly moving any trial back to Galveston County. His predecessor had moved it to Fort Bend County.

Ten people were killed and 13 were wounded during the 2018 school shooting.

Pagourtzis was a 17-year-old student at Santa Fe High School at the time.

Survivors and families of the victims have waited nearly five years for a trial.

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