Attorneys for the former Fort Worth police officer accused of murdering a woman in her own house are asking for a new judge, successfully delaying the trial which had been set for next week.
The former officer, Aaron Dean, was arrested a few days after he shot Atatiana Jefferson through a window in her backyard as he responded to a neighbor’s report of an open door at her home in October 2019.
Dean’s attorneys, Miles Brissette and Bob Gill, said in court papers that Judge David Hagerman “has grown increasingly hostile, overbearing and rude” to them.
They cited a June 3 hearing in which they sought to delay the trial.
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In that hearing, the attorneys argued Hagerman refused to follow courthouse rules and ordered the trial to proceed without lead counsel Jim Lane -- who has been seriously ill -- and without a key defense witness.
They asked administrative Judge George Gallagher to settle the scheduling conflict.
Gallagher noted a separate hearing on the recusal motion wouldn't be able to be held until at least the week after next, meaning Dean's trial would have to be postponed.
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A new date was not set.
Brissette and Gill listed a series of other trials and hearings they already have scheduled, suggesting the trial could be pushed past summer.
Legal experts say it's extraordinary for a defense lawyer to ask for a judge's removal and is difficult to get.
"It's fairly unusual to have a recusal motion in general, much less on eve of trial or eve of what would have been our trial date," said Fort Worth defense attorney Benson Varghese who is not connected to the case.
Judge Gallagher said he was aware of the community's interest in seeing the Dean case go to trial but noted the other cases involved defendants who are in custody who should have their trials as quickly as possible. Dean has been out on bond.
"We're really confused, upset, disappointed, frustrated," said Fort Worth city council member Chris Nettles. "We want to trust the system but the system keeps failing us."
Hagerman already granted a previous delay in the trial after lead defense attorney Jim Lane became seriously ill, and the trial had been slowed for months because of the pandemic.
The case has drawn widespread news coverage and community interest.
Jefferson was home playing video games with her young nephew when a neighbor called police reporting her front door was open, which he found unusual.
She apparently thought Dean was an intruder in her backyard and she grabbed a gun, police said at the time. The officer was in uniform but did not announce himself, the bodycam video showed.
A gag order is in effect in the case, barring participants from commenting publicly.