A judge has approved the postponement of the trial of Aaron Dean, who is charged with the 2019 murder of Atatiana Jefferson.
Judge David Hagerman denied a motion by the lawyers for Aaron Dean, who were seeking to move his trial for the killing of Jefferson to another county because of media coverage that they claimed had tainted the jury pool against the 37-year-old. But he agreed to their request to postpone the case, moving it back a month.
Hagerman granted the continuance with conditions that Dean's lawyers must choose one of three new options.
The options include that Dean's lawyers must begin a search for a new head lawyer in the event the current lead attorney, Jim Lane, cannot continue citing health problems, work together without the assistance of Lane or hire a third lawyer to assist in the case.
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The trial is set to begin June 23 without exception and with or without Lane.
Dean will go on trial in June a few miles from where he shot Jefferson through a rear window while responding to a call about the front door being open. The 28-year-old Black woman’s killing shattered already fragile relations between the city’s police department and its Black community.
Former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean's defense requested the judge postpone the trial citing Lane's health issues and new materials provided by the state in the last few days. Dean's trial had been scheduled to start this month.
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After nearly three days of hearings, Hagerman also ruled that news coverage about the shooting had not been inflammatory and that Dean’s case will proceed in Tarrant County
The pre-trial hearing, which began on Monday, lasted all day Tuesday and continued Wednesday.
For three days the defense team played more than 100 news clips from local and national coverage of the shooting and aftermath.
Dean was charged with murder after shooting 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson through a window in her home while responding to an open structure call in October 2019. Two days after the shooting, Dean resigned from the department. He was later charged with murder and released on a $200,000 bond.
The trial has been delayed primarily because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Members of Jefferson's family were in the courtroom for three days. Some began to sob when the judge began reading his ruling.
"As you can imagine this is an extremely exhaustive process for the family of Atatiana," said family attorney Lee Merritt a day prior to the ruling. "They are anxiously awaiting their day in court. They want to see Aaron Dean held accountable knowing that he’s been out on bail since the murder of Atatiana Jefferson."
CALLS FOR TRIAL TO MOVE FORWARD WITHOUT DELAY
The man who called about the door to Jefferson's home being open was outside the Tarrant County courthouse for three days demonstrating in hopes of compelling the judge to allow the case to move forward without delay.
"I'm torn after two and a half years. Oct. 12 is every day to me. I'm torn that this is even remotely possible that this would be delayed," James Smith said while holding a sign that reads 'We Want Justice' with Jefferson's picture.
Smith said he'll probably always regret calling about an open door at a neighbor's home.
"Police reform is not a bad thing. Justice and accountability is not a bad thing," said James Smith. "And I'm here because her mother can't be here. I'm hoping the judge does the right thing."