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10 potential jurors excused as selection gets underway in murder trial for Aaron Dean

District Judge George Gallagher, who is presiding over the case, said he wants to have 12 jurors and two alternates picked by Friday.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Jury selection began Monday in the trial of a former Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson in her home in 2019.

Of 200 potential jurors, more than half told the judge that they had read, seen or knew something about the case. 

Those people were told to return Wednesday for individual questioning to determine what they know about the case and if it precludes them from being an impartial juror.

Each potential juror filled out a 25-page questionnaire.

Former police officer Aaron Dean faces a murder charge in the 2019 death of Jefferson. Dean, who was a Fort Worth police officer at the time, had responded to her home on an "open structure" call when he shot and killed her through a window. 

A neighbor had called the non-emergency line to request a welfare check on Jefferson's home prior to the shooting after seeing a door open. 

Dean also formally pleaded not guilty to the charges Monday. 

Ten potential jurors were excused for a variety of reasons, including one potential juror who wanted to be present for his wife’s sonogram. 

The remainder of the jurors who had not heard about the case – numbering about 80 people – will return Thursday.

District Judge George Gallagher, who is presiding over the case, said he wants to have 12 jurors and two alternates picked by Friday. If enough jurors cannot be found from the first 200 jurors, then another 200 potential jurors will be called in next week.

Dean’s defense attorneys – Miles Brissette and Bob Gill – again renewed their motion for a change of venue due the intensive media coverage of the case.

Gallagher again told the attorneys that he was not yet going to rule on the motion.

Dean’s defense attorneys also notified the judge that James Smith, the neighbor who called police, had been photographed by the defense team standing outside the courthouse holding a sign that read, “Justice for Atatiana Jefferson.”

The judge asked that Smith be brought up to the courtroom to be sworn in. But when officials went to look for him, he was no longer there.

The judge said in court that he wanted Smith brought to his courtroom Tuesday to be sworn in. Once he’s sworn in, Smith can be held in contempt if he engages in similar conduct.

Due to the high-profile nature of the case, a gag order has been issued in the case. Gallagher also has ordered that no cameras be in the courthouse during the jury selection process.

The judge told potential jurors that he plans to hold court from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

Over the weekend, the death of Dean’s defense attorney Jim Lane caused some to question whether the trial would be delayed again. Back in May, Gill and Brissette who took over as the lead attorneys in the case, had asked for a delay because of Lane’s health issues.

Judge David Hagerman, who has since been removed as judge in the case, agreed to a delay but said the defense needed to replace Lane or be prepared to move on without him.

Gallagher said Monday that whenever Lane’s funeral is held, the court will be recessed so that those that knew him can attend. 

Lane was a well-known and well-regarded defense attorney who often represented police officers accused of crimes.  

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