Despite jammed dockets, ‘imperative’ ex-officer’s trial is set, Fort Worth mayor says

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker on Friday released a statement in which she urged the state district court judge presiding over the case of a former city police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of a woman in 2019 to schedule a trial.

Parker wrote that she shared in “our community’s growing concern” that Aaron Dean’s trial in the killing of Atatiana Jefferson remained unscheduled.

“Until this criminal trial is resolved, Fort Worth cannot reconcile or move forward as a more unified community, and more importantly, Atatiana Jefferson’s family and friends cannot begin to find healing,” Parker wrote.

Parker noted that responsibility for scheduling the trial rests with Judge David Hagerman in the 297th District Court.

“I realize that Tarrant County courts are balancing a full docket with hundreds of cases that are lagging behind schedule due to the effects of the pandemic.

“Despite these obstacles, it is imperative that a trial date be set as soon as possible,” Parker wrote.

At a status conference in the case on Tuesday, Hagerman said that he intended to discuss scheduling a trial in the death of Atatiana Jefferson with the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office and Aaron Dean’s attorneys. Possible dates were not reviewed on the court record.

Hagerman in October set a tentative window for Dean’s trial and said that although scheduling in the case may change, the trial will likely be held in August.

Fort Worth Councilman Chris Nettles last week wrote a letter to Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson and Hagerman in which he described frustration that a trial had not been scheduled.

Dean is accused of shooting Jefferson to death on Oct. 12, 2019. Jefferson died as she was babysitting her 8-year-old nephew at her mother’s house in the 1200 block of East Allen Avenue in Fort Worth.

A neighbor telephoned the police because he was worried after seeing open doors at the house, and Dean and another officer responded to the call. Jefferson, who was 28 and Black, heard noise outside and thought a prowler was in the yard. She held a gun and looked through a bedroom window as Dean fired once from outside through the window, killing her, according to an account from the nephew that is described in an affidavit supporting an arrest warrant for the former officer. Dean is 36 and white.