Atatiana Jefferson

Venue Change Considered in Former Fort Worth Officer Aaron Dean's Murder Trial

Attorneys argue that extensive news coverage makes it impossible for Aaron Dean to get a fair trial

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Attorneys for a former Fort Worth police officer are going through pre-trial hearings this week to argue a number of motions, including one request to have the trial moved out of Tarrant County.

Aaron Dean is charged with murder after shooting 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson through a window while responding to an open structure call in October 2019.

A neighbor called Fort Worth Police because the front door of Jefferson’s home was ajar. Body camera video released by Fort Worth Police at the time shows Dean never announced himself as a police officer.

Jefferson was inside playing video games with her young nephew. According to family, Jefferson was worried someone was in her backyard, grabbed a gun and looked out a bedroom window.

Dean resigned from FWPD two days after shooting Jefferson. A Tarrant County grand jury indicted Dean on a murder charge two months later and the former officer was released on bond shortly after his arrest.

The trial date has been set for Jan. 10, with jury selection beginning on Jan. 4.

However, that could change depending on the outcome of hearings this week. His defense attorneys requested a change of venue out of Tarrant County, stating in court documents that the attention surrounding the case will prevent a fair trial.

“There exists in (Tarrant) county so great a prejudice against Mr. Dean that he cannot receive a fair and impartial trial,” Dean's attorneys wrote.

His attorneys will also argue a motion for continuance to push the trial date further because two of their expert witnesses are out of town and unavailable. A trial date had originally set for Nov. 29 but Dean's defense team said last month they wouldn't be ready for it.

Both the motion for continuance and the change of venue request are expected to be heard on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the hearing will continue to sort through other pre-trial motions, which totals more than 40 for Dean's defense team.

Work started at a hearing on Monday, where both the defense and the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office presented pre-trial motions in court. The requests have been filed over the course of two years leading up to the trial.

This case was among many trials that were delayed because of the pandemic but pressure has been building in the community for it to move forward.

Judge David Hagerman, who is assigned to the case, said during a hearing in November that he will follow the state's code on criminal procedure, which explains how trials should be prioritized.

"We're supposed to be trying the oldest cases first, which is what we're going to do. However, the court is not unmindful of priorities that need to be set on this case," he said.

The witness list for both the state and defense includes more than 200 people, including numerous Fort Worth police officers, fire rescue officials, and Jefferson's family members.

Those involved in the case are under a gag order not to discuss it publicly.

If convicted, Dean could face a sentence of up to life in prison.

NBC 5's David Goins contributed to this report.

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