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Court upholds manslaughter conviction of former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean

Aaron Dean, a white man wearing a dark suit, stands in profile in a courtroom. His attorney, Bob Gill, a white man with a salt and pepper mustache, places a hand on his shoulder.
Amanda McCoy
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Aaron Dean stands with his defense team as the jury leaves the 396th District Court to start its deliberations on December 2022, in Fort Worth. Dean was convicted of manslaughter in the 2019 fatal shooting of Atatiana Jefferson.

The state's 2nd Court of Appeals has upheld the manslaughter conviction of former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean, who killed a woman in her home while he was on duty in 2019.

Dean shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson through her bedroom window while responding to a call about open doors at her home.

Jefferson was up late playing video games with her young nephew, who witnessed her death. Dean is white, and Jefferson was Black, and her name is often mentioned in the same breath as George Floyd and Botham Jean.

Dean was indicted for murder, but a jury convicted him on the lesser charge of manslaughter in 2022 and sentenced him to almost 12 years in prison.

At an appeal in December, Dean's attorneys argued the trial never should have taken place in Tarrant County, because public officials' statements condemning Dean, and the extensive media coverage of the case, prejudiced potential jurors. Before the trial began, two different judges denied two separate requests to move the trial out of Tarrant County.

The appeals court decided those previous denials were fair.

"We will affirm Dean’s conviction in this case, with all its levels of tragedy," Justice Elizabeth Kerr wrote in the court's opinion.

The trial didn't need to be moved, because the trial court was able to seat a jury out of an original jury pool of 200, Kerr said.

"Of those seated on the jury, only three had indicated that they had heard about Dean’s case," Kerr wrote.

And a lot happened between the killing in 2019 and the trail in 2022 to put Jefferson's killing out of people's minds, she added.

"During that time, intervening events occurred that dominated the news cycle and people’s lives, namely the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 presidential election," Kerr wrote.

Dean's attorneys also argued the jury never should have gotten the option to convict on manslaughter instead of murder. Taking that option on at the end of the trial didn't give Dean enough notice of potential charges against him and gave the state an advantage.

The court dismissed that point as well, citing precedent from other cases.

This story has been updated with information from the court's published opinion.

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

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Miranda Suarez is KERA’s Tarrant County accountability reporter. Before coming to North Texas, she was the Lee Ester News Fellow at Wisconsin Public Radio, where she covered statewide news from the capital city of Madison. Miranda is originally from Massachusetts and started her public radio career at WBUR in Boston.