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The Death of Atatiana Jefferson: Jury finds former Fort Worth officer Aaron Dean guilty of manslaughter

After five days of testimony and over 13 hours of deliberation, the jury returned with a verdict Thursday. The jury was considering murder or manslaughter.

FORT WORTH, Texas — After more than 13 hours of deliberation, a Tarrant County jury has found former Fort Worth officer Aaron Dean guilty of manslaughter in the death of Atatiana Jefferson. 

Dean was charged in Jefferson's 2019 death. The former Fort Worth officer shot and killed Jefferson through a window while responding to the home on an "open structure" call. 

The trial spanned five days, with various witnesses from both the prosecution and defense. Among them, Jefferson's nephew Zion Carr, Dean's ex-partner Carol Darch and several others. Dean also took the stand himself in an attempt to clear his name. 

Dean was charged with murder, but the judge offered the option to consider a lesser charge of manslaughter.

This is the first time in Tarrant County that an officer has been convicted of manslaughter in an incident that happened while on duty. 

Proceedings, including the sentencing phase, will continue Friday at 8:30 a.m.

Dean was listed as in custody at a Tarrant County jail as of Thursday evening. 

Five days of testimony

It's been more than three years since Jefferson's neighbor, James Smith, called the police department's non-emergency line to check on his neighbor. Smith said the doors were open at the home on East Allen Avenue. 

Dean responded to the call at 2:25 a.m. on Oct. 12, 2019, with his partner Darch. While Smith called in a welfare check, the call was filed under an "open structure" call. When responding, Dean checked the home and said he and his partner believed it was a burglary in process. 

Dean said, as he stood in the back of the home, he saw a silhouette low in the window of Jefferson's house. He said he could only see the upper arms of the body, and he believed there was movement.

Dean became visibly shaken during his testimony, telling the jury he started shouting commands for the silhouette to “put up your hands, show me your hands.” 

After he shot one round through the bedroom window, he heard Jefferson scream. Later, he found her gun on the floor near her feet. 

From the moment Dean arrived at Jefferson's home to when he shot and killed her, the entire incident was over in a span of 1 minute and 17 seconds. 

Prosecutor Dale Smith hammered Dean over the mistakes allegedly made in responding to the call at Jefferson’s home, especially driving home the fact that he did not see the hands of the ‘silhouette’ in the window nor identify to his partner there was a gun, or immediately start CPR on Jefferson.

“I know you’re crying now, but you weren’t crying when you decided not to administer CPR to Atatiana,” Smith said to Dean during his testimony. 

Several witnesses were called to the stand and broke down what happened that October night with "use-of-force" experts from both sides, a 911 call-taker, Jefferson's sister and notably her nephew, Zion. 

During the trial, community leaders expressed disappointment in the proceedings, especially with the prosecution. 

"How can you rest? We go three [years] before we start a trial. And you go three days? That’s unacceptable. That was a poor job by the prosecution,” said Cory Session, a community activist. 

In total, the trial saw five days of testimony. The prosecution and defense rested their cases on Dec. 13. The jury began deliberating on Dec. 14 just before lunch and continued until 7 p.m. The jury returned on Dec. 15 to deliberate before coming to a verdict Thursday afternoon. 

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