FORT WORTH, Texas — More than three years after now-former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean killed 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson in her home, a jury has finally been seated -- and, seemingly countless continuances later, the trial in the case finally began on Monday, December 5.
The high-profile story of Jefferson's death gained national attention and spurred protests against police brutality across the region. In turn, the long-anticipated trial is among the most high-profile court cases seen in North Texas in years.
Monday's stream can also be watched in the below embed.
As has been true of all the proceedings leading up to the trial kicking off, opening day arrived with something of a curveball. Court was only in session for half a day.
Jim Lane, a longtime Tarrant County lawyer working as Dean's lead defense attorney, died last Sunday, Nov. 27, after sources told WFAA he fell and injured himself a week before Thanksgiving. Lane's funeral is set for 2 p.m. on Monday, and Judge George Gallagher, who is proceeding over the trial, has agreed to grant a recess to the court in order for Lane's former colleagues to attend that event.
Prior to opening statements being shared by the prosecution and the defense, Gallagher has also agreed to hear final pre-trial motions in the case before it officially kicks off. Starting at 8:30 a.m., the defense -- one last time -- argued that slanted local media coverage of the trial would make it impossible for Dean to get a fair trial. Gallagher, however, denied that motion for a change of venue, while allowing the defense to have a running objection to that decision throughout the trial.
Shortly after 9:10 a.m., the jury was finally brought into the courtroom, allowing the trial to officially begin.
You can read timestamped updates to what followed in the proceedings below.
Opening day timeline of the Aaron Dean trial
9:10 a.m.: Following Judge Gallagher's denial of the defense's last change-of-venue motion -- in which attorneys argued that local media coverage of the case made it impossible for Dean to get a fair trial in Tarrant County -- the defense team waived its option to provide an opening statement in the case. The defense could take the opportunity to make an opening statement of their own at a later point in the trial, most like when starting their arguments. That all out of the way, the jury has now finally been seated in the case. (Worth noting: While the jury in this case is not devoid of minorities, no Black jurors were selected during the selection process.)
9:22 a.m.: Following his indictment being read to the court, Dean enters a not guilty please in front of the jury.
9:25 a.m.: Opening statements have begun, and the prosecution is laying out its case. Says Tarrant County prosecutor Ashlea Deener: "This is not a case about a drug-deal gone bad, or a robbery. This is a case about a Fort Worth police officer -- a stranger to Atatiana -- who shot through the back of her bedroom window in the middle of the night when she was in her home and should've been safe. You are going to hear that this was an absolutely intention act, an unjustifiable act that never should've happened."
Deener continues, laying its case for what Dean allegedly did -- and did not do -- on the night of the shooting: "[Dean] doesn’t do CPR. He doesn’t put his hands over her chest to try to save her life. Instead as he’s looking around the room, his flashlight comes upon Atatiana’s gun. When we watch this video, listen to his sigh and him say, 'Looks like we got a weapon here.'"
9:46 a.m.: After initially waiving its options to present an opening statement, Dean defense attorney Miles Brissette is indeed speaking to the jury and laying out the grounds for its defense: "This case is about facts, and not emotions."
Says Brissette: "That gun was relevant. Everyone in Texas. Everyone in the United States has the right to defend themselves in their home. This is a tragic accident. Tragically Ms. Jefferson lost her life."
10:07 a.m.: Opening statements now complete, the defense has called Jefferson's nephew, the 11-year-old Zion Carr, to the stand. Carr was with Jefferson when she was killed. He was eight years old at the time. Prosecutor Dale Smith is questioning him.
10:28 a.m.: After more than 20 minutes of testimony from Zion about his relationship with his aunt and his memories of the night she was killed, the prosecution rested and Judge Gallagher granted the court a short recess. Testimony will resume at 10:45 a.m.
10:55 a.m.: After a recess, attorneys discussed with the judge a discrepancy between Carr's earlier statements and that of his testimony -- specifically in regards to how Carr described Jefferson holding the gun on the night she was killed by Dean. Following that discussion, Carr was brought back into the courtroom and placed back on the stand, where he is currently being cross-examined by the Dean defense.
11:17 a.m.: The defense's cross-examination of Carr was paused as attorneys conferred with the judge. Judge Gallagher then called a member of the gallery to the bench, swore them in as a witness and said he saw her motioning to Carr during his testimony. That person was then asked to leave the court room. Testimony then resumed.
11:26 p.m.: In the final questions of the cross-examination of Carr, the defense asked if Carr told attorneys "something different" about how he saw his aunt holding her gun on the night she was killed. In his testimony on Monday, he said he saw his aunt pointing the gun at the ground -- not at Dean. Carr denied ever speaking to anything differently in his testimony. With that, his testimony is over and the witness has been dismissed.
11:30 p.m.: Attorneys for Dean's defense are discussing with the judge about whether Carr saw body camera footage from the night of Jefferson's death. The judge said he would discuss the matter with attorneys and then bring the discussion back on record at a later time. Because the next witness is expected to have a length testimony, Judge Gallagher said he is ending proceedings for the day -- about 30 minutes before the expected noon end time.
11:34 p.m.: After dismissing the jury, Judge Gallagher called prominent civil attorney Lee Merritt -- who the defense earlier brought up as someone previously in contact with Carr -- into the court and asked if he'd been sworn in as a witness in the case, which he said he had been. The judge then reminded Merritt that he was not supposed to watch the trial as a witness -- and that he should have known that as a lawyer. The judge then took Merritt's phone number, dismissed him from the room and told him he'd be called back to the courthouse when needed.
11:38 a.m.: "We're done," said Judge Gallagher of the day's proceedings. The trial is expected to resume at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.