The sentencing phase for former Texas police officer Aaron Dean began on Friday, just a day after he was found guilty of manslaughter in the death of Atatiana Jefferson.
After 13 hours of deliberations, the jury convicted Dean of manslaughter. He faces up to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
If Dean had been convicted of murder, he would have faced up to life in prison. The ex-cop, who had been free on bond, was booked into the Tarrant County jail following the verdict on Thursday.
Dean, a white police officer, fatally shot Jefferson, a 28-year-old black woman at her home in Fort Worth, Texas in October 2019.
Aaron Dean, 38, was convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting a black woman through the rear window of her home when he was a cop responding to a call about an open front door
Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was armed when she was shot after a neighbor called a nonemergency police line to report her front door was open
Following Thursday’s verdict, the sentencing phase got underway on Friday morning with several witnesses taking the stand for the prosecution.
Elizabeth Turner testified Friday that Dean groped her by touching her breast while whispering in her ear in the library while they were both homeschooled students UT-Arlington. She said reported the incident and he was cited for simple assault.
Turner said the incident happened at the library when she leaned over the table to look at the student newspaper.
‘I leaned over the table to look at the day’s headlines and as I did, he wrapped his arms around my torso and his hand grazed under my breasts,’ she said. ‘As he did so, he leaned into my ear and whispered to the effect of “does anyone know how great you are.'”
Earlier on Friday, Dr. Kyle Clayton, psychologist who evaluated Dean before he was hired by Fort Worth police, testified that he exhibited grandiose, ‘domineering, over-controlling’ personality traits.
He also told the court that Dean was ‘not psychologically suitable to serve as a police officer’ because his ‘narcissistic personality style that would inhibit his judgement, decision-making, interpersonal abilities and would make him more likely engage in behaviors that would put himself and others at risk.’
The court also heard a victim impact statement from Jefferson’s brother Adarius Carr.
Jurors deliberated for more than 13 hours over two days before finding Dean guilty of manslaughter. The primary dispute during the six days of testimony and arguments was whether Dean knew Jefferson was armed when he shot her. Dean testified that he saw her weapon; prosecutors alleged the evidence showed otherwise.
Adarius Carr, right, holds his sister Ashley Carr’s hand as they leave court after Aaron Dean was found guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of Atatiana Jefferson
Aaron Dean, center, sits with his defense team after he was found guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of Atatiana Jefferson on Thursday
Lesa Pamplin, an attorney and friend of the Jefferson family, said she was glad that jurors took their time.
‘These folks gave a good, hard look at the evidence and they didn’t rush it. And I’m happy, not pleased, but I’m happy that they got the manslaughter,’ Pamplin said.
Another friend of the Jefferson family, Cliff Sparks, told The Dallas Morning News that he thinks the verdict will give other officers the message that they ‘can shoot and kill somebody in his own backyard and get the lesser charge.’
‘It’s not right,’ Sparks said. ‘None of this is right.’
Family members of both Jefferson and Dean left the courtroom without commenting.
Dean joined the Fort Worth Police Department in April 2018, according to officials
The courtroom and jury were shown a photograph of the gun found in the residence of Atatiana Jefferson, after she was fatally shot
Dean shot Jefferson on October 12, 2019, after a neighbor called a nonemergency police line to report that the front door to Jefferson’s Fort Worth home was open. She had been playing video games that night with her nephew and it emerged at trial that they left the doors open to vent smoke from hamburgers the boy burned.
The case was unusual for the relative speed with which, amid public outrage, the Fort Worth Police Department released video of the shooting and arrested Dean. He’d completed the police academy the year before and quit the force without speaking to investigators.
Since then, the case had been repeatedly postponed amid lawyerly wrangling, the terminal illness of Dean´s lead attorney and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Body camera footage showed that Dean and a second officer who responded to the call didn’t identify themselves as police at the house. Dean and Officer Carol Darch testified that they thought the house might have been burglarized and quietly moved into the fenced-off backyard looking for signs of forced entry.
Jefferson had been babysitting her nephew, who was 8 at the time, when officers arrived at her home and allegedly did not identify themselves
A bullet hole could be seen in the back window outside the Fort Worth home after the fatal shooting
There, Dean, whose gun was drawn, fired a single shot through the window a split-second after shouting at Jefferson, who was inside, to show her hands.
Dean testified that he had no choice but to shoot when he saw Jefferson pointing the barrel of a gun directly at him. But under questioning from prosecutors he acknowledged numerous errors, repeatedly conceding that actions he took before and after the shooting were ‘more bad police work.’
Darch’s back was to the window when Dean shot, but she testified that he never mentioned seeing a gun before he pulled the trigger and didn´t say anything about the weapon as they rushed in to search the house.
Dean acknowledged on the witness stand that he only said something about the gun after seeing it on the floor inside the house and that he never gave Jefferson first aid.
Jefferson’s 8-year-old nephew, Zion Carr, was in the room with his aunt when she was shot. Zion testified that Jefferson took out her gun believing there was an intruder in the backyard, but he offered contradictory accounts of whether she pointed the pistol out the window.
On the trial´s opening day, the now-11-year-old Zion testified that Jefferson always had the gun pointed down, but in an interview that was recorded soon after the shooting and played in court, he said she had pointed the weapon at the window.