FORT WORTH, Texas - More than 150 prospective jurors for the Aaron Dean murder trial will return to the courthouse on Wednesday and Thursday as lawyers attempt to find 14 people who can impartially listen to days of testimony and fairly weigh evidence presented in the case.
Former police officer Aaron Dean is charged with murder for the 2019 on-duty shooting of Atatiana Jefferson at her mother's Fort Worth home during a late-night call about an open front door.
On Monday, the pool of jurors completed a 25-page-long questionnaire with wide-ranging questions from the defense and prosecutors including:
- Have you, your spouse, partner, significant other, a relative or close friend ever been accused of a crime?
- Are you a member or supporter of any crime victim advocacy organizations?
- Have you ever attended a protest of any kind? If yes, please explain.
- Do you think police treat minorities differently? if yes, please explain.
- Do you have a personal philosophy or favorite saying that reflects your personal philosophy that can be expressed in a few sentences?
- Which television shows do you watch regularly?
- Do you believe that most eyewitnesses to violent crimes are generally reliable in their recollections of the facts?
"It allows the attorneys on both sides to dig a little deeper and get more information before bringing that panel into the courtroom," said jury selection analyst Kacy Miller, who is not involved in the case.
Miller believes 25 pages for a jury questionnaire is more lengthy than typical. She also explained why the state and defense team consider the questions important, even if they appear to stray from the case, like "Have you ever written a letter to the editor of a newspaper or submitted a comment to a website?"
"What it can reveal is a person's passion for speaking up when they think things are wrong," Miller said. "Those types of people, generally, not saying always, but somebody who writes a letter, somebody who protests or calls an editor, he’s going to be more likely to be vocal in the deliberation room and really have a strong opinion and be willing to fight for it."
Despite repeated calls by the defense for a change of venue, the case, for now, moves forward in Tarrant County.
The list of prospective jurors began with 200.
Miller says, in part, with such a high profile case that has involved significant publicity the judge is increasing the odds for the ability to seat an impartial panel.
"Between last night and Wednesday morning those teams are going over all the questionnaires and making key notes and they are deciding based on who answered what which jurors they want to follow up with," she said.
The prospective jury pool has been split into two groups. One will report for further selection protocol on Wednesday. The remaining candidates will report on Thursday.
14 jurors will be selected, 12 jury members and 2 alternates. Judge Gallagher says he anticipates the jury being seated no later than Friday morning.