FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A former Fort Worth police officer will face his murder trial next month in the city where he fatally shot a Black woman through a window of her home in 2019, a Texas judge ruled Wednesday.
Judge David Hagerman denied a motion by the lawyers for Aaron Dean, who were seeking to move his trial for the killing of Atatiana 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.
The decision means 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.
After nearly three days of hearings, Hagerman ruled that news coverage about the shooting had not been inflammatory and that Dean’s case will proceed in Tarrant County, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of Dallas, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Dean’s trial has been delayed for years as the COVID-19 pandemic ground courts across the country to a standstill. It had been set to begin on May 16, but the former officer’s lawyers asked for further delay Wednesday because one of them is in poor heath.
Hagerman set the trial for June 23 and said it will proceed with or without the attorney, KXAS-TV reported.
Dean resigned after he was charged with murder in Jefferson’s Oct. 12, 2019, death.
Jefferson was watching her 8-year-old nephew when a neighbor called a nonemergency police line to report that a door was ajar. Police have said that Dean opened fire from outside through a window after “perceiving a threat.”
Hagerman has issued a gag order has been issued that prevents prosecutors and defense attorneys from speaking publicly about the case.