Judge grants change of venue for Santa Fe HS shooting suspect's trial

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter, Sophia Beausoleil - Reporter, Jacob Rascon - Anchor-Reporter, Aaron Barker - Senior Digital Editor

GALVESTON, Texas - A change of venue request made by attorneys for the suspect in the massacre at Santa Fe High School last year was granted Wednesday.

Attorneys for Dimitrios Pagourtzis asked the court in January to change the venue, arguing that the amount of publicity surrounding the case would prevent him from receiving a fair trial.

Prosecutors argued that the process of jury selection would weed out anyone with bias.

District Judge John Ellisor’s written decision explaining his choice is expected to be filed later this week. 

According to court documents, Ellisor plans to announce where the trial will be moved at an already scheduled disposition setting on May 10.

In interviews with a half-dozen people impacted by the 2018 shooting that left 10 people dead and 13 injured, many expressed shock at the new development.

“Hopefully, it’s going to be somewhere where the families here can be able to travel,” said Keith Parker, whose daughter survived the shooting. “Close enough that they can make it.”

“I feel like it does matter. Lke it happened here, it needs to stay here,” said Suzannah Salazar, a senior at Santa Fe High.

“I don’t give a damn,” said Rhonda Hart, who lost her daughter, Kimberly Vaughan, in the massacre. “I know he did it.”

“We support the judge,” said Sonia Lopez, whose daughter is still recovering from several gunshot wounds. “Wherever they move it, we’ll be there.”

“I’m totally against (moving the trial), of course,” said Angie Martinez, whose daughter attends Santa Fe High. “(But) I would consider that he would get a fair trial anywhere he goes.”

“I think it should be held in the county it happened in,” said Susan Davidson, whose daughter survived the shooting. “Wow, that’s kind of disheartening.”

 

The defense attorney representing the accused gunman said they were pleased with the judge's decision.

"There's going to be people that are upset about this decision. We understand that. We're not blind to the emotional elements, but that's the very reason it had to be moved," explained defense attorney Nicholas Poehl. 

He said while the publicity of the case was a factor, the other main contributing factor for why they asked for a change of venue is because they were concerned too many potential jurors would somehow have ties to the case. 

"We didn't file this motion for fun. It's not because we want to have to travel away from home and do a long trial somewhere else. It's because we felt like it needed to happen to protect his right to a fair trial by an impartial jury," Poehl said.

He said they did notify their client and his family of the change. Poehl also said Pagourtzis is still undergoing psychological evaluations.

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