The judge set to preside over former Forth Worth police officer Aaron Dean, who shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson in 2019, has been removed from the case, according to CBS News. The defense attorneys claim Judge David Hagerman treated their team with “anger” and “hostility.”
A former state appellate court justice had granted the defense’s motion for recusal Tuesday, per CBS. The report says Hagerman presided over more than two years worth of proceedings in connection to Dean’s indictment. The issue arose when the defense tried to schedule a trial date with the judge.
The trial was already delayed times before this but during June’s hearing, the attorneys said they experienced hostility and bias from the judge. The delays caused not only the attorneys but also Jefferson’s family to grow frustrated.
“That confidence that this would eventually result in some modicum of justice is beginning to dissipate. We know that justice delayed is justice denied,” said Lee Merritt, family attorney in the civil suit related to Jefferson’s death via CBS.
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Legal experts say recusing a judge is pretty rare, but it’s not too surprising given the high-profile nature of this case.
“If there is that assertion, and there’s evidence and support behind it, that the real possibility would exist that you err on the side of caution, ensure that due process is afforded the defendant, and recuse the judge in this in this type of case,” said Eric Cedillo, attorney and SMU Clinical Professor of Law.
“So it’s one in which this could be a little process in terms of what happens next, and of course, the actual trial itself is going to be put off for some time because of it,” Cedillo said.
Former officer Dean is facing a murder charge for the shooting and killing of Atatiana Jefferson. Dean responded to her home after a neighbor called, concerned about Jefferson’s door being slightly opened. Reports say Jefferson was babysitting her nephew when she heard Dean coming into the backyard and grabbed her gun for protection. Dean shot Jefferson within seconds of seeing her in the window.
It’s currently unclear when a new judge will be assigned to the case but it’s clear that Jefferson should still be alive and Dean is responsible for why she’s not here with her family.
Unfortunately, the process to assign a new judge will also mean another delay to Dean’s trial.