Prosecutors argue against moving Santa Fe shooting suspect's trial

Exterior photo of Santa Fe High School.
Exterior photo of Santa Fe High School. (KPRC2)

SANTA FE, Texas – Galveston County prosecutors responded Friday to a motion by defense attorneys for a change of venue in the case of a Santa Fe high school student accused of killing his classmates and educators.

Last month, attorneys for Dimitrios Pagourtzis requested their client’s trial be moved out of Galveston County because “the amount of publicity generated by the instant case has been so great that it has produced so much prejudice in the community that the likelihood of the Defendant receiving a fair and impartial trial is doubtful.”

Prosecutors filed a 30-page response to that motion, arguing pretrial publicity has not tainted the jury pool and the process for selecting jurors would weed out anyone with bias.

READ: Venue change brief

File: Venue Change Brief_20190201143553

As part of the state’s response, mayors from League City, Galveston and La Marque gave statements saying the amount of news and social media coverage of the murders at Santa Fe High School has died down considerably. All three mayors also stated they did not believe there was an inherent prejudice against Pagourtzis that prevents an impartial jury from being seated in the case. 

“We are looking forward to oral argument,” said Nicholas Poehl, Pagourtzis’ attorney.

Prosecutors also stated Galveston County is large enough, with a potential jury pool of 289,803, to be able to find jurors who can be impartial. 

READ: Venue change responseFile: Venue Response_20190201143126

“To be sure, the defendant is charged with very serious crimes that impacted the community. But in both his Defendant’s Motion and his Defendant’s Arguments, the defendant has presented no evidence that shows he cannot receive a fair trial in Galveston County,” the state’s motion read.

Pagourtzis is charged with murdering eight classmates and two educators during a shooting rampage at Santa Fe High School in May. Jared Black, Shana Fisher, Christian Garcia, Aaron McLeod, Glenda Perkins, Angelique Ramirez, Sabika Sheikh, Christopher Stone, Cynthia Tisdale and Kimberly Vaughan were killed in the attack. Santa Fe Independent School District police Officer John Barnes was critically wounded, as were several other students.

A judge will set a hearing on the motion in the next couple of weeks. Pagourtzis remains in solitary confinement in the Galveston County jail.