Aaron Dean Trial: Jurors begin deliberating in ex-Fort Worth officer's murder trial

A sequestered jury will continue deliberating Thursday for a former Fort Worth police officer's murder trial.

Attorneys gave closing arguments Wednesday morning in the Aaron Dean murder trial. Now, jurors are deciding his fate.

Dean is facing a murder charge for shooting and killing Atatiana Jefferson inside her mother's home in October 2019.

The morning started with Judge George Gallagher reading instructions, followed by the closing arguments for the prosecution and defense.

"He’s the one who ended Atatiana Jefferson’s life and he’s the reason we are here. This is a matter of accountability. Tragedy, an accident? That’s spilling your milk at breakfast. This is murder. Someone lost her life. Atatiana is no longer here through no fault of her own," prosecutor Dale Smith said.

Smith and Ashlea Deener tag-teamed closing arguments for the prosecution. It was highly charged and emotional.

They urged jurors to find Dean guilty of murder for killing Jefferson in 2019.

"She was in her own home. If we can't feel safe there, where in the world are we going to feel safe?" Deener said.

Dean and another officer went to Jefferson’s Southside Fort Worth home to investigate an open structure call after a neighbor made a non-emergency report about the front and side doors left open late at night.

Dean testified Monday in his own defense, confirming he never announced himself as Fort Worth police while checking the home’s front door, perimeter, two vehicles, and a detached garage.

He said he was justified in shooting through a window at Jefferson’s silhouette because he saw a gun pointed at him, a gun Jefferson’s nephew said she took from her purse when she heard noises outside. 

"She had those rights up until the point she pointed a firearm at a Fort Worth police officer. We never, under the law, ever have the right to point a firearm at a uniformed police officer. The rights stop there," defense attorney Bob Gil said.

A major dispute has been whether or not Dean actually saw a gun before firing. 

"This man never saw that gun, he didn’t know what he saw. He just shot," prosecutor Smith said.

"Atatiana Jefferson didn’t commit any criminal act by walking up to the window with her gun thinking someone was outside," Deener added. "It’s what many of us would do if we were in our house in the middle of the night in the back bedroom and we hear somebody outside." 

The defense urged jurors to believe the initial interview with Zion Carr, Jefferson’s then 8-year-old nephew, when he told a forensic examiner that Jefferson pointed her gun at the window, which was contrary to his courtroom testimony.

[EXAMINER: "Did you see her point the gun?"] (Carr nods) ["Where was she pointing the gun?"] 

"At the window," Carr responded.

The defense suggested Carr was coached to give a different version on the witness stand.

"You could tell he was under a lot of pressure and a lot of time had passed. So Zion succumbed to the pressure and testified differently from the truth," Gil said. "You’ll recall during jury selection we asked you, does an officer have to wait until he’s dead to exercise his right of self-defense?  Of course not! That’s the whole reason we have a law of self-defense, is to defend ourselves, to make sure no one uses a deadly weapon on us. To save our own lives."

"He’s supposed to be testifying in his own defense and he’s cracking jokes on the witness stand, 'I guess I should’ve just stayed home that night.' Well Atatiana was home and she’s no longer here because of what he did. The choices he made," prosecutor Smith said.

The jury was dismissed to begin deliberations around 11:30 a.m. and paused for the night just before 7 p.m. They will resume Thursday morning.

If convicted of murder, Dean faces a possible sentence anywhere from five to 99 years in prison.

FOX 4 will have gavel-to-gavel coverage on fox4news.com and our YouTube page, plus live updates from the courtroom throughout the day.

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Previous Coverage

The defense rested its case late Tuesday morning after presenting a total of three witnesses. 

The final witness was Dr. Jay Coons a use-of-force expert.  He summarized that Dean and his partner acted appropriately with regard to their police training and under the circumstances in the moments leading up to Jefferson’s fatal shooting.

After the defense rested, prosecutors called a rebuttal witness, Jonathyn Priest. He’s a forensic expert on officer-involved shootings. He testified the officers should have announced themselves at the open front door or called for backup and waited.

The most interesting day of the trial was Monday when Dean himself took the stand in his own defense.

When asked why he waived his Fifth Amendment rights Dean said, "This jury needs to hear from me, and hear the truth." 

Dean told the jury he thought the house was burglarized and claims he found himself staring down the barrel of a gun. 

Prosecutors worked to break down his version of events. He admitted some of his decisions were "bad police work." He also admitted he did not announce he saw a gun before he fired and failed to tell his partner he saw a gun when they went into the home.

Atatiana Jefferson Shooting Timeline

The shooting happened on Oct. 12, 2019.

Atatiana Jefferson was babysitting her 8-year-old nephew at her mother's house.

A neighbor made a non-emergency call to police because a door was open with lights on.

Officer Dean arrived, walked into the backyard and saw Jefferson in a window with her gun in her hand. Dean yelled, "put your hands up! Let me see your hands!" before immediately firing a single shot, killing Jefferson.

The shooting led to protests against the Fort Worth Police Department.

If you have issues viewing the timeline click here.