FORT WORTH, Texas — Sitting in the leather swivel chair normally occupied by the judge whose future involvement in a case she will determine, a former state appellate court justice heard again and again Thursday about matters of demeanor, fairness and vacation calendars.
On a bench ledge below Retired Second Court of Appeals Justice Lee Gabriel is the nameplate of the state district judge who defense attorneys in the murder case are seeking to recuse.
“Hon. David Hagerman,” it reads.
Gabriel will determine whether grounds exist to keep the Aaron Dean case under the dominion of Hagerman or assign it to a different judge.
Hagerman’s style — strict, demanding, easily perturbed — was described on Thursday by a series of criminal defense attorneys who have tried cases before him.
On the day the murder trial of Dean — a former police officer who shot a woman in her Fort Worth home — was set to begin, the name of the defendant scarcely has been mentioned. The name of the woman he fatally shot, Atatiana Jefferson, was not said at all.
Instead, the hearing Thursday is focused on whether the judge who has overseen two years worth of court proceedings should be removed from the case.
At 9 a.m., the courtroom was filled with reporters, Jefferson’s relatives, activists and other spectators. Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson sat in the back row.
Last week, Dean’s defense attorneys filed a motion asking for a new judge to oversee the capital murder case. In the motion, attorneys Bob Gill and Miles Brissette said Hagerman has shown he is biased against them and has been aggressive during proceedings.
The defense plans to call 11 witnesses to support its arguments that Hagerman has been unreasonable and that his demeanor suggests the judge will not be objective during a trial.