Houston Matters

Five years after the Santa Fe High School shooting, why has there been no trial?

The man charged in the shooting has been deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial. We learn how such determinations are made.


Five years after the shooting at Santa Fe High School, Dimitrios Pagourtzis has yet to stand trial because courts have ruled him mentally incompetent.


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It's been five years since the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School. Dmitrios Pagourtzis, the man charged with capital murder in the case, has yet to stand trial. He’s been in a state-run mental health institution most of that time, ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial.

His case illustrates a complicated situation that sometimes occurs in the criminal justice system. A court deems a defendant to be mentally incompetent and so the defendant remains under doctors' care in the hopes tha someday they will be able to stand trial for the alleged crimes. And there's no limit on how long or how many times a defendant can be re-committed.

Victims and their families seeking closure in such cases are left in limbo. Some argue such delays represent defense attorney overreaching. Others believe we need better laws to address the rights of the severely mentally ill.

What's right? What's fair?

In the audio above, we discuss with Denise Oncken, Bureau Chief in the Harris County District Attorney’s Office over the mental health and special victims bureaus. She's also a commissioner on the State Judicial Commission on Mental Health.

We also talk with Dr. Steven Coats, lead psychologist of the Competency & Sanity Evaluation Unit at The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD (intellectual or developmental disability).

Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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Craig Cohen

Craig Cohen

Executive Producer & Host, Houston Matters

Craig Cohen is the executive producer and host of Houston Matters, which airs weekday mornings at 9:00 on Houston Public Media, News 88.7 FM. Craig is a 20+ year veteran of broadcast journalism. He's spent the bulk of his career in public media, in roles ranging from programmer and manager,...

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