DALLAS — Jim Lane, a longtime Texas attorney known for defending police officers and soldiers accused of misconduct, died on Sunday – the day before the long-delayed murder trial for his client, former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean, was scheduled to begin.
Lane was 78. His death was confirmed on Twitter by Fort Worth Police Officers’ Association President Manny Ramirez, who said the lawyer’s impact “will be felt for generations in Fort Worth and Tarrant County.” WFAA-TV reported Lane, also a former member of the Fort Worth City Council, was receiving hospice care after being injured in a fall several days ago.
Lane was the lead defense attorney for Dean, who is facing a murder charge over the October 2019 shooting of Atatiana Jefferson.
Jefferson, 28, was staying at her mother’s house when a neighbor called a nonemergency line to report the home’s door was open and its lights were on.
Authorities have said Dean failed to identify himself as a police officer before fatally shooting Jefferson.
After several previous delays – including one partly due to Lane’s poor health – jury selection for Dean’s trial is due to begin Monday. It’s unclear how Lane’s death will affect the timing of the trial or whether state District Court Judge George Gallagher, who is overseeing the trial, will grant another extension.
State District Judge David Hagerman, who previously oversaw the case, had expressed frustration with the continued delays and signaled Dean’s defense team should be ready to defend the former officer with or without Lane.
Lane practiced law for four decades, previously working as a JAG officer in the U.S. Army, where he attained the rank of captain. During his time in the Army, Lane defended three soldiers facing court-martial for the 1968 My Lai massacre of hundreds of civilians during the Vietnam War. Lane’s clients were acquitted.
According to an obituary in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Lane was born in Uvalde but often visited his grandparents, who lived near Fort Worth. His family eventually moved to Fort Worth, where he graduated from Texas Christian University with a bachelor’s degree in 1966. He received his law degree from Baylor University.