Calls for justice for Atatiana Jefferson have increasingly focused on the lack of a trial date for the man who murdered her nearly two years ago — former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean. Jefferson was playing video games with her nephew when Dean shot her through the back window of her and her mother’s house.
The resumption of criminal trials for officers who shot and killed unarmed Black civilians in other states (most notably the guilty verdict of now-incarcerated former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin) has all but ended any remaining excuses for why Dean should not face trial soon.
If Tarrant County Judge David Hagerman and DA Sharen Wilson were under any illusion that Dean’s trial was not on the top of minds of thousands of Fort Worthians, City Councilmember Chris Nettles used Monday morning to send a reminder.
“I send this letter to you today asking you to do what’s right — not just morally right but lawfully right,” read the statement from Nettles’ office. “We are approaching two years since Atatiana’s murder, and the man indicted for her murder remains free. It is time for Aaron Dean to have his day in court.”
The letter, sent via email and certified letter to Hagerman and Wilson, was followed by an in-person visit by Nettles, who made seeking justice for Jefferson a pillar of his recent city council campaign. Nettles brought copies of the letters to the fourth floor of the Tim Curry Criminal Justice Center, where Wilson works. After delivering one letter to Wilson’s receptionist, Nettles told me that a trial date “will help the community heal so we can move forward.”
On the fifth floor, Judge Hagerman refused to see Nettles or to send any staff member to formally accept the letter. The only interaction Nettles had with the court was with Hagerman’s bailiff. After 30 minutes, Nettles left for other appointments, undaunted.
“I’ve been informed that the judge has received the email,” Nettles said. “We wanted to hand-deliver the copy and maybe have a small conversation. I’m not against Sharen Wilson. I’m not against the judge. We respect them. The only thing we are asking for is a trial date. We support their office. We are just speaking on behalf of the community.”