In a category for newspapers with circulations below 100,000, Dean earned a second-place award for investigative print journalism for a story on Jason Payne. Dean spent a year working on a piece about a man whom some say is innocent in the 2007 slayings of Nicole Payne and her 16-year-old son, Austin Taylor Wages.
In 2010 Payne was convicted and remains incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on a life sentence.
Former Wood County Sheriff investigators in the case say the evidence proved Payne was guilty and that Austin could not have killed his mother and then himself as defense attorneys and Martin argued. In 2011, the Texas 12th Court of Appeals upheld Payne’s 2010 conviction, but others maintain his innocence.