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Minnesota Supreme Court overturns 1 assault conviction in Deputy Dewey case, lets multiple other convictions stand

By Nathan Bowe / DL Newspapers

 A man serving life in prison for the death of a Mahnomen County deputy will not be going free anytime soon, after the Minnesota Supreme Court largely upheld multiple convictions in the case.

     Thomas Lee Fairbanks was found guilty by a jury of first-degree murder of a peace officer, failure to render aid to a shooting victim, four counts of first-degree assault, two counts of second-degree assault, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and  attempted theft of a motor vehicle in connection with the shooting death of Mahnomen County Deputy Christopher Lee Dewey.

     On Feb. 18, 2009, after a night of drinking and drugging, Fairbanks shot Dewey without provocation after encountering him outside a residence in the city of Mahnomen, severely injuring him with shots to the head and abdomen. He died about 18 months later.

     On appeal, Fairbanks made four arguments:

     • The district court abused its discretion when it transferred venue to Polk County.

     • The old English common law “year-and-a-day rule” barred the murder prosecution.

     • The district court abused its discretion by admitting into evidence several autopsy photographs and a “spark-of-life” photograph of Deputy Dewey.

      • The evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s verdicts finding Fairbanks guilty of four counts of first-degree assault.

     The Supreme Court overturned one count of first-degree assault, ruling that it could not be determined if he had fired shots at a group of officers to the east of the house where he was holed up during the standoff.

     But the court let stand all the other convictions, including the murder conviction, and the other assault convictions, for firing towards officers on the south side of the home.

     He is serving a term of life in prison without the possibility of release.

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