Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Murder suspect's trial opens Monday

by on April 21, 2013 2:00 AM

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday morning in Indiana County Court, as a northern Indiana County man faces trial for the shooting death of his father-in-law.

Shaun Fairman, 33, is charged with homicide and four other counts stemming from the slaying of Richard “Dick” Shotts, of the Rural Valley area, last June in Fairman’s residence along Route 210 in North Mahoning Township.

Fairman has conceded that he fired the fatal shot, but his public defenders, Donald McKee and Robert Dougherty, of Indiana, will propose to the jury that Fairman’s thinking was clouded and will ask for his acquittal by reason of mental infirmity.

District Attorney Patrick Dougherty is seeking a conviction for homicide, burglary, receiving stolen property and two counts of aggravated assault.

State police charged that Fairman and his wife, Jessica, had separated and that she had filed for divorce, but that Jessica’s parents had been spending nights at the Fairman residence because they feared Shaun would return and cause trouble.

According to investigators, Fairman approached the house just after midnight on June 3, armed with a rifle and a handgun, and got into an argument with Shotts, who had been sleeping in the living room.

Fairman fired his handgun and Shotts, 55, was wounded in the neck and died at the scene, authorities say.

Fairman then entered the house and searched for his wife, who shot and wounded him when he entered a bedroom where she tried to hide from him, police say.

Online court records show the legal teams exchanged pretrial motions as recently as a few weeks ago.

Judge William Martin, who will preside over the trial, instructed the attorneys to turn in their lists of witnesses by April 3.

The judge required the prosecution to provide a video of the state police interview of Fairman and copies of autopsy photos to the defense attorneys, but did not immediately rule on a defense request to keep certain photos from being shown to the jury.

The court record shows Fairman was taken for his most recent psychiatric evaluation to Dr. Neil Blumberg in Lancaster County on March 5.

Martin granted a request to sequester witnesses, meaning that none will be allowed as spectators at the trial before they are called to testify, and he held off a request for change of venue until the time of jury selection.

The jury will not be sequestered during the trial, but may be put up in a hotel if their verdict deliberation extends into the night.

The record also shows Martin issued an order on Tuesday in response to a plea bargain proposed by the defense counselors, but no details are given.

Jury selection is set to start at 8:30 a.m.

Chauncey Ross is the Gazette’s fixture at Indiana Area and Homer-Center school board meetings, has been seen with pen and notepad in area police stations and courts, and is something of an Open Records Act and Sunshine Law advocate. He also manages the Gazette’s websites and answers your questions about them.
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