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In Dean appeal hearing, both sides debate media coverage ahead of last year's trial

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FORT WORTH - Attorneys for Aaron Dean, the former Fort Worth police officer convicted of manslaughter for the 2019 death of Atatiana Jefferson, began their appeal of his conviction Tuesday. The defense team argued to a three-judge panel that circumstances surrounding last year's murder trial could have affected the impartiality of the jury.

Dean's defense team argued that extensive media coverage made it difficult for jurors to be neutral before the trial began. They presented evidence like front-page newspaper articles and stories from local TV stations as proof. 

They also pointed to public statements by elected officials and the police department not only heightened public interest in the case, but also turned the narrative into a racial issue during the trial. Dean is White, and Jefferson was Black.

Similar issues were argued at length before the trial last year.

In rebuttal, state prosecutors said that media coverage had decreased significantly in the three years between the shooting and the criminal trial. They also asserted that the comments of public figures were calls for justice, rather than attempts to sway potential jurors.

Dean's defense entered the testimony of a medical expert, who suggested that individuals may subconsciously form opinions about a case before trial, potentially influencing the jury selection process.

The prosecution countered that 43% of potential jurors claimed no prior knowledge of the case, a significantly higher percentage than in comparable cases arguing for a change of venue.

Only five seated jurors admitted to being aware of the case prior to the trial.

As the appeal moves forward, both sides are expected to continue to argue over the role of media coverage in shaping public opinion and potentially prejudicing jurors.

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