Two new motions filed Tuesday in the Aaron Dean murder case target the start date of his trial, which is set to begin shortly after the new year, and whether the case should be moved out of Tarrant County, the location where the former Fort Worth police officer shot and killed 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson in October 2019.
Last week, Dean’s defense team requested a change of venue, claiming that the former police officer would not receive a fair trial in Tarrant County because of media coverage and “considerable prejudicial discussion” around Jefferson’s death.
In one of two filings Tuesday, the prosecution responded to that request, asking the court not to make any decisions until potential jurors are questioned. Jury selection is expected to begin on Jan. 4.
With an affidavit from a local pastor, who said he’s resided in the county for over 30 years, alongside affidavits from two attorneys, both of whom said they’ve practiced law in the area for over four decades, the prosecution argued media coverage and community involvement are not intrusive.
“While there’s been significant coverage in local and national media regarding the incident giving rise to the charges against Mr. Dean, that coverage has not all been the same view,” David Keltner, a local resident and former Texas Court of Appeals judge, wrote in one of the three affidavits. “Some of the publicity has been in favor of Mr. Dean and other publicity has been negative. Overall, the publicity has not been pervasive, inflammatory, or prejudicial to the extent that Mr. Dean cannot receive a fair and impartial trial.”
The second motion, filed by Dean’s defense, is requesting a delay of the trial, stating that two expert witnesses, who are important to their case, are not available in January.
“Both essential expert witnesses have previously scheduled commitments that will prevent them from being available in Tarrant County during the trial time scheduled by the Court,” the filing read. “Essential expert witness Dr. Aaron Pierce of Waco, Texas, is obligated to be in other Texas counties throughout January and is obligated by previously scheduled client meetings and PhD candidate examinations. Essential expert witness Grant Fredericks of Spokane, Washington, has previously scheduled trials and forensics classes obligating him throughout the month of January in the states of Washington and California.”
Dean’s motion to delay the trial also states that the previous obligations prevent the witnesses “from being available to meet and confer with counsel for Mr. Dean to prepare for trial.”
The trial is set to begin on Jan. 10. Judge David Hagerman of Tarrant County’s 297th District Court said his scheduling in the case was guided by Texas criminal procedure code that assigns priority to cases in order of indictment.
“We’re supposed to be trying the oldest cases first, which is what we’re going to do,” Hagerman said on Nov. 16. “However, the court’s not unmindful of priorities that need to be set on this case.”
A hearing to consider motions in the case is scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday.
Jefferson, a Black woman, was fatally shot through a window by Dean, who was responding to a call about her door being open. The 28-year-old was playing video games in the home with her 8-year-old nephew when she heard someone in the back yard, Dean’s arrest warrant said. She proceeded to grab a gun from her purse and looked out the window. Dean, whose body-cam footage showed he did not identify himself as an officer, fatally shot Jefferson within seconds.