FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — A Texas judge on Monday again delayed the murder trial of an ex-police officer who fatally shot a Black woman through a window of her own Fort Worth home in 2019.
State administrative Judge George Gallagher delayed Aaron Dean’s trial during a Monday hearing until another judge decides on a defense motion to recuse state District Judge David Hagerman. Hagerman has declined to recuse himself as judge presiding over the trial, which had been scheduled to start next week.
Dean is charged in the death of Atatiana Jefferson, whom he shot and killed in her home while responding to an October 2019 report about open doors. In court submissions, his attorneys have argued that Hagerman “has grown increasingly hostile, overbearing and rude” to them.
At a June 3 hearing, defense attorneys had sought a delay because lead attorney Jim Lane, who had been ill, and a key defense witness would be unavailable. Hagerman revised to follow courthouse rules and ordered the trial to proceed, defense co-counsels Miles Brissette and Bob Gill said in their motion for Gallagher to settle the scheduling conflict. At the Monday hearing, Gallagher said a hearing on the recusal motion would not be able to be held until at least the week after next, forcing the postponement of the trial from June 21.
At the June 3 hearing, Gill told Hagerman that he had submitted a vacation request letter for June 29 months before. Hagerman said he would not consider that issue. He and prosecutors pointed out they had canceled their vacations to be ready for the Dean trial.
“You’re not going to dictate the schedule to this court, Mr. Gill,” Hagerman said.
Hagerman has issued a gag order has been issued that prevents prosecutors and defense attorneys from speaking publicly about the case.
Jefferson was playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew when a neighbor called a non-emergency police line to report that a door to Jefferson’s home was ajar. Police have said Dean opened fire from outside through a window after “perceiving a threat.”
The killing and ensuing delays have frayed relations between the Fort Worth Police Department and the city’s Black community.
Dean’s trial has been delayed for years as the COVID-19 pandemic ground courts across the country to a standstill. Hagerman denied a defense motion on May 4 to move the trial, then scheduled for May 16, to another county, arguing that media coverage of the case would make choosing an impartial jury impossible. Hagerman granted the one-month postponement to June 21 because of Lane’s poor health.