District Attorney Sharen Wilson, Judge David Hagerman, and State Attorney General Ken Paxton are on the shortlist for a barrage of phone calls and emails demanding a trial date for Aaron Dean, the former Fort Worth police officer who shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson through her back window in late 2019.
Dean remains free on bail, and Hagerman is tentatively slated to handle the trial in August. The suggested trial date isn’t good enough for the friends and family of Jefferson.
The Tarrant County District Attorney’s office “calls periodically to make you feel like you have been updated on something, but you haven’t been updated on anything because nothing changes,” said Amber Carr, Jefferson’s older sister.
Grassroots groups Enough Is Enough, Funky Town Fridge, and others are planning a coordinated effort to raise public awareness of the two-year delay in justice for the Carr/Jefferson family while simultaneously making life uncomfortable for officials who are responsible for that delay.
Nysse Nelson, leader of the Black Lives Matter-aligned group Enough Is Enough, said she is “really pissed off” at the lack of movement in the Aaron Dean trial.
“I don’t think I was this mad during the protests,” she said, referring to the unprecedented nonviolent protests she co-led this past summer. Nelson has been drawn to “Atatiana Jefferson’s family. Amber’s nephew Zion spends nights at my house. He calls me his aunt. Everyone forgets there was a damn kid who saw Jefferson’s murder. I’m ready to get some civil disobedience tickets.
“This is a new effort,” she continued. “We will blow their phone lines up so much they won’t get a call about anything but Atatiana’s case. We want a trial date.”
Mayor Betsy Price said in an email that COVID-19 has caused significant delays for the Texas criminal justice system.
The Texas Supreme Court has not yet opened courts for trial, “and many cases are left in this frustrating limbo,” Price said. “I realize that not having that ability to move forward and find closure can cause a continued mental and emotional drain, and I fully support this case being handled in a swift manner at the earliest the district attorney is able to do so.”
Carr and many others point to the judicial movement of other criminal cases involving the murder of Black men and women at the hands of law enforcement as proof that Tarrant County officials are choosing not to act. Texas courts are currently ordered to “continue to use all reasonable efforts to conduct proceedings remotely,” and in-person trials remain highly restricted.
Nelson and several community leaders said their peaceful but disruptive efforts will not cease until the same local criminal justice system that disproportionately targets and incarcerates nonviolent Black men and women understands that justice delayed is justice denied. — Edward Brown