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Fairbanks trial again delayed as jury selection remains slow process

CROOKSTON -- The murder trial of Thomas Fairbanks again has been pushed back as jury selection continues to go slower than the judge expected.

Fairbanks is charged with shooting Mahnomen County Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Dewey Feb. 18, 2009, causing his death in hospice care in August 2010. The charge of murdering a peace officer carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. He also faces several lesser charges from the incident and ensuing standoff.

In such a case, state law requires a jury be chosen through individual interviews. That has meant many jury candidates have had to spend two days or more waiting in the Polk County Justice Center for what state District Judge Jeff Remick has told them can seem an "excruciating" process.

A single juror was chosen Monday, bringing the jury plus alternates to a total of 14 from a pool of 92 Polk County residents who have been examined so far. About 50 more remain in the pool of jury candidates.

Remick has told attorneys from both sides that he wants at least 15 and perhaps 16 chosen for a 12-member jury to have enough alternates for the trial expected to last up to three weeks.

When jury selection was slated to begin Aug. 1, Remick had scheduled jury selection to be completed and opening arguments to begin last Wednesday. But the first day was taken up with pre-trial discussions between the prosecution, defense and court over what questions to potential jurors could and could not include. Actual jury selection began Aug. 2 and within a few days, Remick was telling jurors to expect opening arguments to begin Monday.

But Friday, Remick told jurors to expect opening arguments to begin at 1 p.m. Tuesday. But as progress remained slow Monday, he pushed back opening arguments to Wednesday morning.

He has told jurors to expect the trial to last until the Labor Day holiday.

A Crookston man was "passed" by attorneys from both sides later Monday afternoon to bring the jury panel to 14.

Jury selection resumes Tuesday morning.