FORT WORTH, Texas - The sentencing phase for former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean, who was found guilty of manslaughter for the 2019 killing of Atatiana Jefferson last week, got back underway Monday.
The jury began deliberating Aaron Dean punishment just after 10 a.m. following closing arguments from the prosecution and defense on Monday morning. In the evening, the jurors requested to stop discussions and go into sequester.
So far the jury has asked to watch body camera footage from the night of the shooting and review Fort Worth PD's general orders.
The defense wants Dean to get probation, the prosecution called for the maximum of 20 years behind bars.
"Her life is worth so much more than a probation sentence," said Tarrant County prosecutor Ashlea Deener.
Deener pointed back to the testimony given during the punishment phase, including a psychologist who screened Dean prior to being hired by the Fort Worth Police Department.
Dr. Kyle Clayton determined Dean was ‘clearly not suitable’ to be hired by the department due to his displaying ‘narcissistic’ and grandiose tendencies.
"This is not somebody who thinks he has done anything wrong," Deener said. "The only appropriate verdict is the maximum sentence."
Defense attorney Bob Gil spoke next and attempted to humanize Dean.
He argued that Dean is being punished for a single incident and that an unjust punishment will not bring Jefferson back to life.
Gill called for the jury to give Dean probation.
"He is probably the person least in need of rehabilitation who has ever sat in the defendant's chair," he said.
Gill also argued that the jury's verdict could have an impact on other police across the region.
"This exact situation is an extremely isolated event," Gil said. "There is nothing to gain by sending this man to the penitentiary. No one can punish this man more than he has punished himself."
Near the end of his remarks, Gill walked over to Dean and spoke to the jury directly.
"This is Aaron Dean. This is the man you will be passing judgment on," Gll said. "He's a very good man who finds himself in a very tough situation."
Prosecutor Dale Smith got the opportunity to close the state's case against Dean.
"The defense attorney told you this was an isolated incident. You know why this is an isolated incident? Because other officers don't act this way," Smith said.
"This wasn't some tragic accident, he is the one that set everything into motion," he said "Atatiana was taking her last breaths on the floor with her nephew, gasping for air, struggling to live, and he stood over him."
Smith argued passionately against the idea of probation.
"She deserved better from that defendant, and she deserves better from you." said Smith. "Give him the maximum. Give him the maximum."
Prosecutors focused on one message: Jefferson’s life is worth more than a probation sentence.
"The only just verdict is 20 years. Anything less is a travesty of justice," Deener said.
"What is Atatiana’s life worth? What are you going to tell her family?" Smith said.
Under the Texas Penal Code, the penalty for manslaughter is between two and 20 years in prison along with a fine of up to $10,000.
If the jury decides to sentence Dean to 10 years or less, they have the option to give Dean probation.
The judge sent the jury back to a hotel just before 6 p.m. on Monday.
Deliberations resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Former Dallas County prosecutor Russell Wilson says that if the jury cannot come to an agreement on a sentence, the judge could order a new jury to be selected to handle sentencing. And while it’s very rare, it is a possibility.
COMPLETE TRIAL COVERAGE:
- 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
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.