Recap: State stays case in Aaron Dean murder trial for Atatiana Jefferson shooting

Recap: State stays case in Aaron Dean murder trial for Atatiana Jefferson shooting

The third day of the murder trial of former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean in the shooting of Atatiana Jefferson began Wednesday morning with testimony from crime scene investigators and police and s’ ended with Jefferson’s sister, Ashley Carr, at the helm.

The state closed its case Wednesday afternoon. The trial will resume on Monday, when defense witnesses are available to begin testifying. The court will not sit on Thursday or Friday.

Carr’s voice cracked as she looked at photos of her youngest sister that prosecutors showed in the courtroom, including a photo of her graduating from Xavier University, a trip to visit to his brother who was stationed with the Navy in San Diego and a photo with nephew Zion, who witnessed his aunt’s death when he was 8 years old.

Ashley Carr said Jefferson was the youngest of four children and moved in with their mother, Yolanda Carr, on East Allen Avenue in Fort Worth after Yolanda fell ill. Jefferson, 28, was also saving money for medical school and hoping to find a cure for diabetes, which she had since she was a child, Ashley said. She was helping raise Zion while her mother, Amber Carr, was also in the hospital.

The defense objected to the relevance of some of the personal issues and the judge told the prosecution to move on. Assistant Criminal District Attorney Ashlea Deener then questioned Ashley Carr about their mother’s neighborhood, where Dean shot Jefferson through his bedroom window while responding to a neighbor’s call about the open doors of the home. The defense pointed out that police consider it a high-crime neighborhood.

Ashley Carr said her mother would leave the side door to her house unlocked. It was a “stop and walk in” type house, she said. She testified for about 10 minutes.

Watch the video of today’s proceedings below.

The jurors will have to decide if Dean acted in self-defense. The defense said Dean saw Jefferson pointing a gun at him through his bedroom window. Prosecutors don’t believe Dean saw the gun.

Wednesday began with testimony from crime scene investigators and a Major Case Unit detective who investigated after Dean shot Jefferson through his home window on Oct. 12, 2019.

A paramedic testified that a medical team from the house tried everything to save Jefferson’s life for about 20 minutes, but she died at the scene. An assistant medical examiner later testified about the autopsy while prosecutors showed photos of the gunshot wound to Jefferson’s chest and window glass that pierced the skin of his face and chest.

The prosecution did not call any of the use-of-force experts who were on its list of potential witnesses. Prosecutors could still call more witnesses later to refute defense arguments.

The defense should present a day or two of testimony.

01 - Aaron Dean Day 2.JPG
Former Fort Worth Police Officer Aaron Dean looks toward his attorneys on day two of his murder trial, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, in Fort Worth. Dean fatally shot Atatiana Jefferson in 2019 through a window in his home. Amanda McCoy

Crime scene technician James Van Gorkom discussed photos and an interactive, virtual 3D scan of the house. He told prosecutor Ashlea Deener it was hard to tell the difference between a messy house and a ransacked house. The other officer who responded to the house with Dean testified that before the shooting they thought the house had been burglarized, which turned out to be untrue.

Senior Detective Doug Rohloff, who recovered Dean’s gun as evidence after the shooting, said Dean was given a replacement gun and that his personal flashlight that was on the gun used in the shooting told him had been returned. Dean resigned from the police department two days after the shooting and was arrested later that night.

Another crime scene investigator, Constable T. Valderas, also testified. The defense asked many questions during cross-examination to establish whether the evidence had been gathered correctly.

Tarrant County Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Richard Fries said he performed the autopsy on Oct. 13. He said the bullet hit Jefferson’s upper left chest and traveled down and to the right. There was no exit wound and he removed the bullet from his lower right back.

The defense questioned Fries about the trajectory of the ball and how Jefferson stood and he said he could not determine exactly how she stood but that she could have leaned forward and turned slightly on the side, rather than facing the officer directly when he fired the shotgun. He couldn’t tell how close she stood to the window.

The paramedic testified that they worked to try and save Jefferson for 20 minutes and she never had a pulse or breathed on her own during that time. Fries said that didn’t surprise him. “It was a fatal injury,” he said.

But she didn’t die immediately, he said. Her screams and moans could be heard on Dean’s body camera video.

Jefferson bled to death and it’s unlikely she would have survived even if she had received immediate care at a hospital trauma center, Fries said. The bullet hit his heart, liver and kidneys.

“These are very devastating injuries,” Fries said. “I wouldn’t expect anyone to survive them.”

Previous testimonial

On Tuesday, jurors heard testimony from Carol Darch, the other officer who responded with Dean to Jefferson’s home on East Allen Avenue after a concerned neighbor called about the house’s doors being opened after 2 hours of the morning.

Jurors also heard on Tuesday from neighbor James Smith and the city employee who responded to his call. Prosecutors released body camera video of Dean and audio of Smith’s call.

In the body camera video, Dean yells, “Hands up! Show me your hands!” then immediately fires a shot. Prosecutors say he did not identify himself as an officer, never mentioned seeing a gun and did not perform any first aid in an attempt to save Jefferson’s life.

Atatiana Jefferson was shot and killed on October 12, 2019 by Fort Worth Police Officer Aaron Dean. Jefferson’s family

On Monday, Jefferson’s nephew Zion Carr, who was the only witness inside the house, testified. He was 8 years old at the time of filming. He said he and his aunt opened the doors to let the smoke out after burning burgers. He said they were playing video games when Jefferson heard noises in the backyard, grabbed his handgun from his purse, and looked out the window.

On Monday, Zion said Jefferson held the gun at his side and did not see the officers in the yard. On Tuesday, attorneys released video of Zion’s conversation with a forensic investigator recorded about two hours after the shooting. In the video, Zion said Jefferson pointed the gun at the window and saw Dean’s badge, gun and flashlight through the window.

When Darch and Dean arrived, they found no signs of forced entry at the front and side doors, which were open but with the glass storm doors closed, Darch testified. Officers looked inside the family’s cars in the driveway and then went to search the backyard, she said. Deener asked Darch to read the Fort Worth Police Department’s general orders and pointed out that officers did not follow proper procedure in responding to an open structure call because they were not keeping the doors open.

This story was originally published December 7, 2022 8:31 a.m.

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