FORT WORTH, Texas - Prosecutors want the trial moved up for the former Fort Worth police officer who shot Atatiana Jefferson.
They took their arguments over Aaron Dean's case to a judge on Friday. He attended the hearing virtually because of a medical issue. He is currently free on bond.
The hearing lasted less than an hour. And the focus was squarely on the state trying to convince the judge to reevaluate the trial timetable.
The state began with the matter of Dean’s murder trial date, requesting it to be moved up.
"We ask and seek relief that this case be set for pretrial hearings on March 7, 2022," prosecutors said.
Prosecutors want the trial to begin in the month of March rather than the tentatively set date in May.
"The four-month continuance granted by this court exceeds that which was provided by the defendant’s motions for continuance," prosecutors said.
They say an upcoming trial the defense attorneys have scheduled has had the death penalty option removed and should reduce its length. Also, the current May dates fall during National Law Enforcement Appreciation Wee, calling it a conflict.
The former Fort Worth officer is charged with murder. Dean fired through a backyard window, killing Jefferson. The 28-year-old was babysitting her nephew at her mother’s home when Dean responded on a welfare check after a neighbor saw the front door open late at night.
"If you’re concerned about National Police Officer Week during the fifteenth through the twenty-first and you’re concerned about any potential jurors handling that, there’s a way we can do that. I’ve considered sequestering the entire jury for the entire trial," explained Judge David Hagerman.
The judge granted an extension until May because defense experts were unavailable.
"The two expert witnesses, Dr. Pierce and Mr. Fredricks, the only thing offered in the record is they were not available in January. There’s been no assertion. That was the reason the case being moved," prosecutors said.
"I’m almost certain that was represented to the court that y’all tried to get them in March, and they were booked up solid through April," the judge said.
Former Dallas County Chief Assistant District Attorney Russell Wilson says moving the date could be risky for prosecutors down the line, possibly giving the defense a stronger case for an appeal if Dean is convicted.
"If you’re gonna choose a date that is objectionable to the defendant and then you obtain a conviction in the case, the defendant can go up on appeal and complain that the trial was moved up two months end," he said.
Wilson says he’s surprised the prosecution didn’t present timing concerns sooner.
"I would say that at the time that the trial date was initially being set is when you generally would have to raise any issues or concerns," he said.
Wilson says he’s not even sure holding the trial during National Law Enforcement Appreciation Week would really impact the jury’s ability to evaluate the facts of the case.
Ultimately, Judge Hagerman agreed to consider the date change and told the defense to see if the expert witnesses could be available at an earlier date.
"So if it turns out that they are available in March, then I think that could change things," Wilson said. "But it’s infrequent that you see criminal jury trials moved forward. And that’s usually only done by an agreement of both parties."
In the end, Judge Hagerman said he would take the arguments under advisement. He gave no timeframe for issuing his ruling.