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Tarrant County judge delays Aaron Dean’s murder trial to May 2022

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 Tarrant County judge decided 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.

Dean’s attorneys asked to delay the trial, which had been scheduled for January. They said two expert witnesses would be unavailable at that time.

Judge David Hagerman of the 297th District Court agreed with the defense that those two witnesses are fundamental.

“No further continuances will be granted in this case,” he warned.

Hagerman gave a tentative jury selection date of May 9. The trial could begin on May 16. He stressed these dates may not be final.

One significant defense request remains undecided: moving the trial to another county. Dean’s lawyers say the extensive publicity surrounding the killing has already poisoned Dean’s chances in Tarrant County.

“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.

Prosecutors argue that the media coverage hasn’t stirred up any bias against Dean.

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

Jefferson’s family and supporters say they’ve already waited too long for justice, and they need the closure of a trial.

Natasha Nelson, a fixture at racial justice protests in Fort Worth, was in the courtroom on Wednesday morning. She said the delay made her sick to her stomach.

“There’s people that have been taken away after her that have gotten their justice, and I don’t understand why we’re waiting,” she said.

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

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