Was a vigilante judge removed from Texas school shooting case?

Was a vigilante judge removed from Texas school shooting case?

Back in late March, I posted about how the defense for Dimitrios Pagourtzis wanted Judge Jeth Jones removed from the case. If you’ll recall, in 2018, Pagourtzis carried a shotgun and a .38 pistol into Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas. While clad in a black trench coat and a t-shirt that read ‘Born to Kill’, Pagourtzis opened fire, killing two teachers and eight students, while injuring 13 others.

More than a year after the shooting, Pagourtzis was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial. Every year since, Pagourtzis has been declared incompetent, further delaying his trial. This happened most recently back in February of this year.

Then all of a sudden, in March, the presiding judge, Jeth Jones, ordered Pagourtzis to undergo another mental competency evaluation. The defense not only protested the judge’s orders, but they requested Jones be recused. They alleged that Jones was trying to “arrive at the specific result of the Defendant being found competent.”

Normally, I don’t often agree with criminal defense attorneys, but in this case, I felt like they had a point. My reasoning is, if Pagourtzis is pushed through the system and ruled competent when he’s not, it could lead to a lifetime of appeals and possibly an acquittal if and when he’s eventually tried.

Not too long after Jones ordered a new evaluation, the Texas Attorney General’s Office stepped in, and they agreed with the defense. They filed a motion looking to vacate Jones’ order. In their motion, they cited that Jones picked a doctor from the University of Texas. That makes the doctor a state employee, which violates Texas regulations.

The defense also made a point that Jones presiding over the case was a conflict of interest. At the time of the shooting, Jones was still an attorney and not a judge. Jones’ law firm partner, spoke with and gave advice to Pagourtzis on the day of the shooting. Jones’ partner is also now a judge. Under Texas law…

…a judge must be disqualified from any proceeding in which the judge has served as a lawyer in the matter in controversy, or a lawyer with whom the judge previously practiced law served during such association as a lawyer concerning the matter.

Pagourtzis’ defense, also accused Jones of allegedly contacting hospital staff to conduct an evaluation of Pagourtzis without notifying attorneys on either side.

Again, I believe Pagourtzis should be sentenced to life without parole once he’s found competent, but it really does seem like Jones was jeopardizing the trial.

Thankfully, Jones won’t have a chance to do so because earlier this month, Jones was removed from the case by a higher court.

Justice does need to be served, but it needs to be served correctly. When a judge tries to push the outcome of proceedings in one direction or another, that’s not justice, that’s vengeance.

However, I don’t think Jones was acting like some kind of vigilante judge, but probably just wanted to further his career by being known as the judge who put Pagourtzis away.


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