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Judge may delay Aaron Dean’s trial this week

Aaron Dean strides out of a courtroom, wearing a black suit and a black tie. He does not look at the camera.
Miranda Suarez
/
KERA
Aaron Dean leaves a court hearing on Dec. 13, 2021. Dean is a former Fort Worth police officer who is charged with murder in the on-duty killing of Atatiana Jefferson.

A judge may decide on Wednesday to delay Aaron Dean's murder trial.

Dean, a former Fort Worth police officer, shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson in 2019. While responding to a call about an open door at Jefferson’s home, Dean shot Jefferson through her window, never identifying himself as an officer, body camera footage shows.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Jan. 4, 2022, with the trial set to start on Jan. 10. The defense has asked to delay the trial, because they say certain expert witnesses will be unavailable.

Dean’s lawyers have also asked the judge to move the trial to another county. They say the extensive publicity surrounding the killing has already poisoned Dean’s chances.

“Since the date of the alleged offense and because of the considerable discussion in the community, there exists in said County so great a prejudice against Mr. Dean that he cannot receive a fair and impartial trial,” Dean’s attorneys wrote in a court motion.

Jefferson’s killing in 2019 has been a huge topic of conversation in the media, and her name comes up in many discussions of racial justice in the community. Dean is white and Jefferson was Black.

Prosecutors argue that the media coverage hasn’t stirred up any bias against Dean, and that it’s too early to ask to move the trial anyway. They’re asking the judge to hold off on a decision until he talks to potential jurors.

Judge David Hagerman of Tarrant County’s 297th District Court will consider the delay at a hearing on Wednesday at 9 a.m. He said he may also consider other motions in the case, including moving the trial, if necessary.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.org. You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.