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Stephen J. Lee, Forum Communications Co., Published August 13 2011

Fairbanks trial opening arguments to begin Tuesday

CROOKSTON, Minn. – The judge says opening arguments in the murder trial of Thomas Fairbanks here will begin Tuesday afternoon.

Two jurors were seated Friday, bringing the total to 13 in a long process of individual interviews that began Aug. 2. At least two more jurors are needed, maybe three, according to in-court discussions between Minnesota District Judge Jeff Remick and attorneys from both sides.

That’s because enough alternates are needed for the 12-person jury to ensure no one has to drop out during what promises to be a three-week trial, with jury deliberations perhaps not beginning until the first days of September.

But Remick also is concerned, he said Friday, that taking much longer on jury selection will lead to losing initial jurors chosen last week.

The first jurors selected were told they could expect the trial to begin by Aug. 10 and jury deliberations to be concluded by the last days of this month.

But as jury selection has dragged out longer than expected, Remick has had to push the trial schedule out later.

He told jurors picked Friday that the trial and jury deliberations would be concluded “we hope no later than the Labor Day holiday.”

As Remick closed the day Friday by cautioning a panel of 14 prospective jurors to not discuss the case over the weekend before showing up for possible interviews Monday, two on the panel raised questions about the trial schedule.