Atatiana Jefferson's neighbor was sworn in Tuesday morning as a witness for former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean's murder trial.
During recent hearings about Jefferson's killing, James Smith was frequently seen outside the Tim Curry Criminal Justice Center holding a banner with a picture of Jefferson and the words "We want justice!" Jury selection for Dean's trial began Monday, and Smith was once again standing outside the courthouse with his sign.
Smith had called Fort Worth police on a non-emergency line the morning of Oct. 12, 2019, and asked them to check on his neighbor's home because the doors were open. Dean, one of the responding officers, shot and killed Jefferson through a window.
Defense lawyers for Dean told Judge George Gallagher on Monday that they want Smith to stop standing outside the courthouse with the sign. Prosecutors said they have told Smith his presence with the sign could have a detrimental effect on the trial but they don't feel they have the authority to tell him what he can or can't do on public property.
A gag order covers all participants in the trial. Gallagher told Smith on Tuesday after swearing him in that he can't tell him not to stand on the street with the sign, but he wanted him to realize that it could keep the case from moving forward if it influences potential jury members.
Gallagher said that 110 of the almost 200 potential jurors who showed up at the courthouse on Monday indicated they had prior knowledge of the case. Those individuals will return Wednesday for individual questioning to see if what they know about the case would disqualify them from being an impartial juror.
The trial has been delayed numerous times due to scheduling issues and the health of Dean's lead attorney, Jim Lane. Lane died Sunday.
Gallagher said he is ready for the trial to move forward, with testimony scheduled to begin on Monday.
"The next three days are very critical," Gallagher told Smith.
Gallagher said he wants to have 12 jurors and two alternates in place by Thursday or Friday.