Atatiana Jefferson

Jim Lane, Defense Attorney for Aaron Dean in Atatiana Jefferson Murder Trial, Dies

Lane, 78, was a prominent attorney and public servant in Fort Worth

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Jim Lane, the lead attorney for Aaron Dean, a former Fort Worth officer charged in the shooting death of Atatiana Jefferson, died Sunday morning at the age of 78.

The news of Lane's death comes one day before jury selection of a high-profile case that has been delayed numerous times. Additionally, Lane was known for his influence in Fort Worth over the years as a public servant.

Benson Varghese, founder and managing partner of Varghese Summersett PLL, a criminal defense firm, said he will remember Lane as "a fabric of our legal community here in Fort Worth."

Varghese, who is not connected to the case, said while it's not certain, there is a likelihood that the defense will ask for a continuance. In other words— a delay.

"If a Motion is made for a continuance based on the loss of their primary attorney, the judge will be put in a difficult situation, because he has a scheduling order that everyone's agreed to," said Varghese.

He said questions that will come up are if the defense is prepared to move forward without the lead counsel, or if they need to regroup.

“I cannot recall another instance where a lead attorney passed away right before jury selection," said Varghese.

Lane, who was a solo attorney, brought on two other lawyers: Bob Gill and Miles Brisette, according to Varghese. This happened back in the summer when the trial was postponed due to Lane's declining health.

In the past three years, the murder trial had been postponed multiple times, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, court backlogs, a change in judge and Lane's health back in May.

"I know Jim Lane was chosen for this case because of his expertise in cases involving police officers, and he's handled for decades, the most difficult of cases," Varghese said. So Aaron Dean is in a very difficult position trying to determine if he can move forward, but we all have to remember he's been waiting for a trial for a very long time, just as the victim's family has been waiting for a trial for a very long time."

Haim Vasquez, a former Dallas County District Attorney Assistant who is not associated with this case, said he too believes the trial will be delayed again.

"We've seen already in this particular case that at the beginning of the year, there was a continuance based on Mr. Lane's health. So there might be already a plan in place in case something happened," Vasquez said, adding that the judge will likely issue a continuance.

More will be known on Monday about what happens next.

While there's a lot of focus on the high-profile case, those who knew and worked with Lane are remembering who he was and the legacy he leaves behind in Fort Worth culture.

Lane, who completed his undergrad at TCU and went to law school at Baylor University, was a veteran and served as a captain in the Army.

Lane started his career as a young lawyer representing military men and women. He also represented many first responders in his nearly 40 years of practice, specifically police officers, according to his profile on his website.

Lane, who was a husband, father and brother, entered the public servant sector and served as a Fort Worth City Council Member for about 12 years.

"More than a neighbor, more than a friend, he was a mentor. He spoke very directly to me and told me this is the type of job that is not just about you or the person, but it’s about servicing the community," said Carlos Flores, Fort Worth Councilmember for District 2.

He worked hard for Fort Worth and hard for the Northside.

-Texas State Rep. Charlie Geren

Flores said he's known Lane for years because of his father, similar circles they ran in and also because they were neighbors.

"I feel a personal loss for him. His law office is just down the street from where I live and occasionally I would pop in talk to him," said Flores

"He was very proud of his service to our country in the US Army, and from there I think he had the roots that really led him to being such an involved and giving person of himself and our community. He was a true embodiment of a servant leader," said Flores.

He credited Lane for being the "father of the Fort Worth herd." Lane was instrumental in bringing the idea of "The Herd' and having longhorns on parade twice a day at the Stockyards to represent the Chisolm Trail. The idea was in part to help revitalize the Stockyards and bring in tourism.

After serving on the city council, Lane became a member of the Tarrant Regional Water District Board, and helped spearhead Panther Island and the Trinity River Project.

The news of his death has impacted many community leaders who have worked alongside Lane.

“Very sad when I found out yesterday that they were going to move him into hospice care and didn’t expect him to live the night which he didn’t," said State Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth), who is close friends with Lane's brother.

He said he's known Lane since the '80s and that he ran against Geren's brother for Congress in 1989. They've all remained friends ever since.

"Jim was an incredible man. He worked hard for Fort Worth and hard for the Northside," said Geren.

Geren said Lane left behind big shoes to fill and credited him for helping make the north side of Fort Worth look the way it does.

"He championed the comeback of the Northside, the revival of the Northside," said Geren. "I mean he was a champion for the whole city, but he was an incredible champion for the northside of Fort Worth."

He said Lane was known for being a straight shooter.

“Jim never knew a stranger. He never held back on what he thought it'd be if it were something you were doing he didn't like, he'd like to know. But he was very generous with praise when he thought you were doing the right thing," said Geren.

Flores echoed the same sentiment.

"To me, he was very forthright and I appreciated that about him. He would always let you know where he stood and he had a wonderful practicality about him," said Flores.

Three years after Atatiana Jefferson was shot and killed by a former Fort Worth police officer, her family waits for closure.
Contact Us