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Stephen J. Lee, Forum Communications Co., Published August 10 2011

Economy plays part in Fairbanks jury selection

CROOKSTON, Minn. – Wall Street’s woes came into jury selection Tuesday in the trial of Thomas Fairbanks, on the anniversary of the death of the deputy he’s charged with murdering.

A financial advisor chosen to be part of the jury pool had his interview stopped short by Minnesota District Judge Jeff Remick after he said he had a small office.

“I imagine you are getting a lot of calls,” Remick told the man, who acknowledged the steep declines in the stock market since late last week caused lots of clients to contact him.

Remick told attorneys from both sides that because “the market has dipped” so much and the financial advisor temporarily had an office worker tending to family concerns, it would be a hardship if he had to serve on the jury for a trial expected to last into September.

Fairbanks, 34, is charged with first-degree murder of a peace officer in the shooting of Mahnomen County Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Dewey on Feb. 18, 2009, as well as several assault charges and other lesser charges connected to an ensuing standoff.

A year ago Tuesday, Dewey died at home after undergoing months of surgery and therapy.

For much of 2009, Dewey was treated at a rehabilitation center in Colorado, where he suffered a brain hemorrhage, one of several setbacks that year.

In early 2010, he came back to Minnesota to a care center and then a hospital when he got an infection. In July 2010, he was given Botox injections for pain, and a few days a later a lung collapsed from complications from the injections, according to postings from his family on the CaringBridge website. At that point, it was clear he didn’t have long to live and he was placed in hospice care in the home of the parents of his wife, Emily, near Princeton, Minn., where he died.

The months of decline in Dewey’s health last year influenced prosecutors’ pace in pursuing the case, they said, because it appeared that the attempted murder charge Fairbanks faced since late 2009 would be changed to a murder charge.

That happened in September 2010, leading to this month’s trial in Crookston for what still is a Mahnomen County case.

Two jurors were chosen Tuesday, bringing the total to eight since jury selection began Aug. 2 in the Polk County Justice Center in Crookston.

The court has said it intends to seat a jury of 12 plus three alternates. About 48 people have been interviewed so far. Jury selection will continue today.


Stephen J. Lee writes for the Grand Forks Herald