TARRANT COUNTY, Texas — Note: This story has been updated with the date of the recusal hearing (Thursday June 23, 2022, at 9 a.m.)
The trial for a Fort Worth officer charged in the shooting death of Atatiana Jefferson has been delayed again after his attorneys asked for the judge to be recused from the case.
Attorneys for Aaron Dean, the former Fort Worth officer charged in the case, asked the trial judge to recuse himself from Dean's murder trial, but District Judge David Hagerman refused.
Now, a trial must be held on the recusal motion, which will postpone the trial against Dean until a ruling is made, George Gallagher, who is the presiding judge over Tarrant Count's felony courts, said during a hearing Monday.
Gallagher was hearing a previous motion from Dean's attorneys to delay the trial over scheduling conflicts.
It was up to the regional judge, David Evans, to schedule the recusal hearing. On June 16, it was announced that the recusal hearing will take place on Thursday, June 23 at 9 a.m.
Until the recusal motion is heard, Judge Hagerman cannot preside over any matters related to the case.
Dean is charged with murder in Jefferson's death. He fatally shot her while responding to a welfare check at her home in October 2019, police said.
Dean's attorneys, Miles Brissette and Bob Gill, filed the recusal motion Monday, accusing Hagerman of having an attitude towards the defense that has shown he is not going to be fair or impartial during proceedings against Dean.
Hagerman declined to recuse himself, referring the request to the Eighth Administrative Judicial Region. Evans, the judge for the Eighth Region, will preside over the hearing or appoint a visiting judge to conduct the hearing. A written ruling will then be issued deciding whether Hagerman should be recused from the case.
"As a result of today's hearing, everything has come to a screeching halt in the case of Aaron Dean," said Christy Jack, a high-profile Tarrant County defense attorney and former prosecutor.
Brissette and Gill filed a motion three weeks ago, asking Judge Hagerman for a delay in trial – citing several scheduling conflicts that also involved a bench trail set to begin the same day as the Dean trial.
But on June 3, Hagerman said the defense attorney failed to prove a conflict with Dean’s scheduled trial date and ruled the trial will begin on June 23.
Hagerman was reportedly testy throughout the delay hearing proceedings, as Brissette and Gill brought up some of their expert witnesses weren’t going to be available for the trial date due to other commitments.
When Gill brought up that he had put in a vacation letter request months ago for June 29, Hagerman said he would not consider the issue at that point.
“You’re not going to dictate the schedule to this court, Mr. Gill,” said the judge.
When Gill and Brissette brought up vacation notices that both of them had filed, the judge pointedly declined to consider those issues, and the judge and the prosecutors said they had cancelled their own vacations for the Dean case.
In the motion for recusal, the defense attorneys say that Hagerman, “has ignored state law that prescribes priority of cases for trial, ignored local rules that govern conflicts in settings between courts and vacations schedules of counsel.”
Brissette and Gill said in their recusal motion that Dean was refused the right to have his counsel of choice at the trial. Lead defense attorney Jim Lane is ill and has been hospitalized and would have been unavailable for court this month.
The judge also had earlier issued a gag order in the Dean case, which includes the defense attorneys. Brissette and Gill contend that Hagerman refused to enforce his own gag order when he did not sanction an attorney who gave interviews after being sworn in last month.
"The statements made by this sworn witness contribute to the harmful pretrial publicity that has been broadcast against Mr. Dean," the motion said.
Overall, Brissette and Gill say the judge cannot be impartial and shown prejudice toward Dean and his defense team.
During the hearing Monday, Gallagher dealt with the other cases that Dean's attorneys said conflicted with the Dean trial. One of them involves a defendant who has been jail for more than 500 days awaiting trial on an an aggravated sexual assault of a child case.
Gallagher ordered the case be tried next week.
"It is an older case. It is an in custody (case). It was scheduled before the Dean matter," he said. "And it involves a matter that the Code of Criminal Procedure mandates" be given "preferential treatment."
In an interview, Jack said state law sets out the order that cases will take precedence for trial.
"All defendents are entitled to their day in court and individuals that are in custody are entitled to their day in court by law before individuals who are out on bond," Jack said.
Gallagher also asked the defense and prosecutors to detail potential scheduling conflicts for the coming months. It became clear both sides either have trials set in other courts or expert witnesses that would be unavailable this summer and into the fall.
"The court recognizes that the community is very interested in a trial on the Dean case," he said, "and I don't want to delay this any more than anything anybody else does."
Gallagher told both sides that once the recusal issue is decided, both sides need to get with the judge presiding over the Dean case and come up with a scheduling order. If an agreement cannot be reached, then Gallagher said he will do it himself.
Jury selection will also be a bit more time consuming in the Dean case. The plan is for potential jurors to fill out questionaires on pre-trial publicity. Once those are reviewed, then potential jurors would be brought back in for jury selection.