TARRANT COUNTY, Texas — After several delays and the recusal of a Tarrant County judge, the attorneys for former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean are once again requesting a change of venue for his murder trial.
In the motion filed Tuesday, Nov. 15, attorneys Jim Lane, D. Miles Brissette and Robert K Gill say the pretrial publicity on the case has been “extensive, prejudicial and inflammatory against Mr. Dean.”
It’s similar to what they stated during a May hearing when they requested the same motion while trying to get the trial delayed.
Dean is charged with murder in the death of Atatiana Jefferson. Dean fatally shot her while responding to a welfare check call at her home in October 2019.
The trial setbacks started during the COVID-19 pandemic and have continued to snowball. The trial was originally scheduled to happen in early spring, then again in June. It is now scheduled to begin on Dec. 5, 2022.
In June, Judge David Hagerman was recused from the case after Dean’s attorneys made allegations against him concerning bias and prejudice.
District Court Judge George Gallagher is now presiding over the case. Gallagher scheduled jury selection to start Nov. 28 through Dec. 2.
With the new motion filed to change the venue, it may affect those dates.
Dean’s attorneys said a fair trial can’t happen in Tarrant County. They believe influential persons in the community have created a “dangerous combination” of opinions concerning their feelings toward Dean and have placed guilt on their client.
Lane, Brissette and Gill named former Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus, former Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price and current District Attorney of Tarrant County Sharen Wilson as the persons responsible for laying a “backdrop of racial unrest throughout the metroplex.”
They also made reference to the conviction of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger and blame the media for looping in Dean with other well-publicized instances of white police officers allegedly shooting Black citizens.
Lane, Brissette and Gill also highlighted statements made by the Fort Worth Star Telegram, state representatives and the Jefferson family’s attorney Lee Merritt.
The attorneys said they also have two credible Tarrant County residents that agree that due to the amount of knowledge they witnessed through publicity, the venue should be changed.
WFAA spoke with legal experts in May, who said it was possible to get a fair trial in Tarrant County, but it may be rare to get a conviction.
RELATED: Can Aaron Dean get a fair trial in Tarrant County? Experts say yes, but a conviction would be rare
Anna Offit, an assistant professor at the SMU Dedman School of Law said she believes Dean's chances of getting a fair trial are the same in Tarrant County as they would be anywhere else.
“I think he can have a fair trial in Tarrant County, and the reason for that is the facts of this case…coverage of this case have not been limited to Tarrant County," Offit said. “There’s no reason to take a case like this out of the hands of a community that suffered a loss.”
Time will tell.