FORT WORTH, Texas - Atatiana Jefferson’s family and their attorney spoke publicly for the first time now that the gag order has been lifted in Arron Dean’s trial.
A Tarrant County jury sentenced former Fort Worth Police Officer Aaron to nearly 11 years, 10, months and 12 days in prison for Jefferson’s 2019 shooting death.
Last week, the same jury convicted Dean for manslaughter. He was initially on trial for murder.
The sentence for manslaughter could have gone as high as 20 years. It could have also just been probation.
Dean will be eligible for parole after serving half that sentence.
Ashley Carr, Jefferson’s sister, was surrounded by her attorney, family members and community leaders as she opened up publicly for the first time since the gag order was lifted.
Carr said she wanted the murder charge but is relieved with a stiff sentence for manslaughter.
"Would we want more time? Yes, we would. But that's what the jury decided," she said.
Carr spoke as she stood outside the home where her younger sister was shot and killed three years ago.
"This has been hard guys," she said. "These three years have been hard.
"It’s a relief," said family attorney Lee Merritt. "It wasn’t exactly the justice we all thought Atatiana deserved, but it does represent a historic moment in Fort Worth and Tarrant County.
After a day and a half of deliberation, a Tarrant County jury ordered the former officer to spend 11 years, 10 months and 12 days in prison.
Jefferson’s family says these numbers are significant.
"11 years is same age as Zion. 10 months and 12 days, that’s the day that it happened. There's a message in this," Carr said. "It may not be the message that we wanted and the whole dream, but that is some of it."
The night Jefferson was fatally shot through the window, she was babysitting her nephew named Zion, who was 8 at the time.
Back in 2019, Dean was responding to an open structure call at Jefferson’s mother’s house after her neighbor noticed the front door was open.
For the past three years, Collin Packer from the Churches of Christ has made it his mission to comfort young Zion and the Jefferson family.
"Since March, the group we are representing has had a presence in the courtroom each day of this trial," he said.
Fort Worth City Council Member Chris Nettles says he will continue to push for change on the city level.
"We haven’t got exactly what we wanted, but we got something. Here in the Black community, we are tired of getting the short end of the stick."
Speaking on behalf of the entire family, Carr says this trial has been a struggle but gives thanks to the community for their strength.
"Are we happy? We knew it was murder. Anything other than that, it’s part of a relief," she said. "But is it over? No. Is this fight over? No."
Carr and her attorney say they will continue to pursue federal and civil charges against Dean.
Dean will be eligible for parole after serving half that sentence. If he decides to appeal the conviction, he will have to remain in prison through that process.
Following the sentence, reactions started pouring in.
"This verdict and sentence won't bring Atatiana Jefferson back," Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson said. "This trial was difficult for all involved, including our community. My sympathies remain with Atatiana's family and friends and I pray they find peace.
"This trial wasn't about politics and it wasn't about race," Wilson said. "If someone breaks the law, they have to be held accountable."
Estella Williams, the president of the Fort Worth Tarrant County NAACP released a statement saying in part:
"The actions of Aaron Dean have greatly affected the lives of the Jefferson family and the entire Fort Worth Community. The emotional impact will be felt for years to come. His felony actions have done much damage to the psyche of our kids. His actions continue to perpetuate an uneasiness about the level of safety in our own homes. The fact that the decision on sentencing is at the higher end of the spectrum of punishment, is proof that we are making progress toward judicial equity."
COMPLETE TRIAL COVERAGE:
- Aaron Dean Trial: Prosecutors, defense lay out the case for Aaron Dean's punishment
- Aaron Dean Trial: Psychologist said Dean was 'clearly not suitable' to be an officer before FWPD hire
- Aaron Dean trial: Jury expected to start deliberating sentence Monday
- Aaron Dean found guilty of manslaughter in 2019 killing of Atatiana Jefferson
- Aaron Dean Trial: Emotional reactions after former Fort Worth officer's manslaughter verdict
- Aaron Dean trial: What is the difference between murder and manslaughter?
- Aaron Dean Trial: State, defense deliver passionate closing arguments, jury deliberations begin
- Aaron Dean Trial: Defense, prosecution call expert witnesses to the stand
- 'Was that good police work?': Aaron Dean takes stand, faces intense cross-examination
- Aaron Dean Trial: State rests case after just 3 days in former Fort Worth officer's murder trial
- Aaron Dean Trial Day Two: Police officer's partner takes the stand, call to police played for jury
- Aaron Dean Trial Day One: Atatiana Jefferson's nephew testifies, lawyers give emotional opening statements