Jury Clears Fair In Dubey Murder Trial

Melissa Bailey PhotoA newly freed Tashaun Fair said he can now enroll in Gateway Community College instead of spending decades behind prison gates, after a jury found him not guilty of killing downtown bike mechanic Mitchell Dubey.

Fair had been facing 25 years to life in prison for allegedly killing Dubey during a March 24, 2011 attempted robbery at Dubey’s Newhallville home. The jury found Fair not guilty of four charges: felony murder, first-degree robbery, home invasion, and carrying a pistol without a permit.

The 12-person jury, comprising five men and seven women, spent seven and a half days listening to evidence and closing arguments before retiring to Room 411 of state Superior Court on Church Street to deliberate Wednesday afternoon.

Fair, who has been locked up since Aug. 28, 2012, on a $2 million bond, was released from state custody around 5 p.m. into his family’s waiting arms. Ruby Avent, Tashaun’s mother, sent a message home to put on the chicken and macaroni and cheese to welcome her son home.

In a written statement, Dubey’s family thanked the jury for its work. “We trust that the jury worked dutifully to arrive at their verdict in this trial,” the family wrote. “Regardless of their verdict, the fact remains that a precious life was taken from family and friends; with the trial behind us, we all continue the burden of living without Mitchell.”

Reached by phone after the trial, the jury foreman, a civil lawyer from Cheshire, declined to comment for this story. Prosecutor Jack P. Doyle (pictured) declined to comment on the specifics of the case.

“I thank the jury for their time and their service and for considering the state’s case,” Doyle said as he escorted Dubey’s family away from the courthouse via Orange Street, dodging TV cameras.

The jury knocked on the courtroom door to announce their verdict at 4:03 p.m. Thursday. Fair’s aunt, criminal justice activist Barbara Fair, broke out into tears when she heard the first “not guilty.” Judge Jon. C. Blue asked her to leave the room.

“The crooked system did not prevail,” Barbara later declared. “My nephew is innocent.”

The jury had considered the fate of two young men, Dubey and Fair, from two very different walks of life. Dubey, who was 23 and white, was an underground music enthusiast from Los Angeles who worked at the downtown Devil’s Gear Bike Shop. Fair, who’s 20 and African-American, grew up in Newhallville and graduated from New Horizons, an alternative high school, where he played basketball. He has an almost-2-year-old daughter, Zamaya, whom he left last August when he headed to jail. Fair’s mother, stepdad, several siblings, niece, grandma, as well as his aunt, Barbara, showed up in court to support him.

Families and friends from the two young men’s lives converged on Judge Blue’s small fourth-floor courtroom at state Superior Court on Church Street for the trial. Dubey’s family flew in from California. Fair’s brother Lue Avent, a comedian who lives in Maine, showed up just in time for Thursday’s verdict. Fair’s mom, who works for Yale dining services, took the Yale shuttle to court from Newhallville. The families sat on opposite sides of court, creating a racial segregation that could not be ignored.

After the trial, Fair’s family gathered near the office of Chief Public Defender Tom Ullmann to await their son’s release.

“I’m glad taxpayer’s dollars are doing their job,” said Tashaun’s stepdad, Larry Daniels.

“I’m just happy he’s coming home,” said Avent (at left in photo), Tashaun’s mom. She said Tashaun’s daughter, who’s nearly 2, is “waiting at home” for her dad.

When Tashaun emerged, Ullmann hugged his client. “What a relief,” he said. Ullmann took a moment to show Fair the piles of paperwork he amassed as he worked on his client’s case. Then they stepped out into the muggy afternoon air.

“Obviously I’m thrilled about the verdict,” Ullmann said. “But as far as I’m concerned, he should never have been arrested” or prosecuted or held on a $2 million bond, forcing his incarceration for nearly a year. “On a case of this kind of evidence, to hold someone for that long on that kind of bond is outrageous,” he said.

“I want to thank my family and my attorney” for helping him through the trial, Fair said in brief remarks in front of TV cameras. He vowed to “go back to school” at Gateway Community College.

“I just want to further my education,” Fair said. He said he’s also looking forward to spending time with his daughter, who was about 1 year old when he left her to head to jail.

Ullmann said the longer the jury deliberated, the more worried he became. He had thought the verdict would have been a “no-brainer” because of the lack of evidence.

Dubey was killed on March 24, 2011 by an intruder in his Newhallville home. The basic facts of what happened that night are not in dispute: A man with a T-shirt covering his face and a hood pulled down over his forehead knocked on the door, brandished a gun and tried to rob Dubey and his friend when Dubey opened the door, according to several witnesses present in the home. Dubey sat down on the couch, put his hands up, and pleaded, “Dude, put down the gun.” Then the intruder fired a fatal bullet through Dubey’s chest and fled.

Cops never found the gun, or any physical evidence linking Fair to the crime. The state’s case against Fair rested on the testimony of one witness, a 22-year-old from Newhallville nicknamed Paulio. Paulio told police in a videotaped interview last August that he accompanied Fair to Dubey’s home at 29 Bassett St. to commit a robbery. Fair chose that house, which was around the corner from his own house in the mostly African-American neighborhood, because he knew white kids lived there, so they must have “bread,” according to Paulio. When Fair got to the house, he covered his face, knocked on the door, then was surprised to find more people inside than he had imagined, including a woman on the stairs, Paulio told police. Fair panicked and pulled the trigger, Paulio charged.

Paulio surprised both sides in the case with erratic behavior: First he failed to show up in court, then recanted his prior statement, then tried to escape a prisoner transport van, then finally showed up Monday and returned to his original accusation. The prosecution argued that that behavior was consistent with Paulio’s contention that he feared for his life if he “snitched.”

In closing statements, both sides agreed that the case rests on whether jurors believed Paulio—or whether they had “reasonable doubt” in his accusation.

Ullmann argued Thursday afternoon that even if jurors found Paulio’s testimony credible, there was still “reasonable doubt” that Fair did the crime. Jurors apparently agreed.

Melissa Bailey PhotoIf not Fair, then who killed Dubey? Ullmann said one theory in the case is that a third man—who never appeared in court during the trial—actually pulled the trigger. That man fits the description eyewitnesses gave of the killer, Ullmann argued. He faulted cops for not pursuing that lead.

“I think they ran with the suspect in the case”—Fair—“to the exclusion of everything else.”

Abra Rice, Ullmann’s co-counsel on the case, called Ullmann a “rockstar” for his legal work.

“I’m so unbelievably happy that Tashaun is going home,” Rice said. “My heart breaks for the Dubey family’s loss,” she added. “What a lovely family.”

The crime was a rare instance of cross-racial homicide. Whether or not Fair did the crime, eyewitnesses agreed that a light-skinned black male killed their white friend. That’s not the norm in New Haven, where most shootings are black-on-black crimes.  Only 7 percent of New Haven murder victims since 2003 have been white, according to the New Haven police.

Dubey’s death was also unusual, Doyle has said, because it involved a victim who wasn’t involved in street life. Dubey had a clean record; he didn’t even smoke, drink or do drugs.

Dubey’s family asked for privacy during the trial.

“Again, we’d like to state that it is a tragedy when families, friends and communities lose young people to violence. Many lives, including those of Mitchell’s friends who witnessed this terrible tragedy, will forever be effected,” the family’s statement read. “We will never forget what a wonderful son, brother and friend he was, and may his vibrant memory live on through everyone who knew him.

“Thank you again to the New Haven Police Department, as well as State’s Attorney John Doyle and everyone who worked with him day in and day out on this trial to bring justice for Mitchell. We are grateful for your hard work and kindness shown to us through the whole process.”

Previous Independent stories on the case:
Closing Arguments Zero In On Accuser’s Motive
Fair Testifies He Didn’t Kill Dubey
Star Witness Describes Death Threat
Video Reveals Police Powers Of Persuasion
Top Cop Testifies He Never Forgot That Face
The Sketch Doesn’t Match
2 Families, 2 Worlds—& A Quest For Justice
Does Tashaun Fair Have Freckles?
State Seeks Informant’s Name; Feds Seek To Hide It
Defense Attorney Files Speedy Trial Motion In Mitch Dubey Murder Case
Freckles, FBI Reports Spark “Innocent” Claim
Supporters Emerge For Dubey Murder Suspect
Dubey’s Killer Allegedly Panicked, Shot

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posted by: oldtimer on August 1, 2013  4:58pm

No quite sure that Tashaun Fair did not commit the crime, but am 110 percent sure that there was never sufficient evidence to get a conviction ie. beyond a reasonable doubt, nor was there sufficient evidence that there was even probable cause for a arrest.

posted by: junebugjune on August 1, 2013  5:50pm

A year in prison.  A year of his life he’ll never get back.  A year away from his young daughter.  All without sufficient evidence.

New Haven PD.  Do not arrest people when you have such an obvious lack of evidence.  A questionable eye witness is good reason to investigate, but if you come up empty after that, you have no right to detain a potentially innocent man for a year of his life.

posted by: ramonesfan on August 1, 2013  9:15pm

With the lack of evidence, I don’t understand why the state even bothered to take this case to trial.  They thought the jury would convict on the basis of Paulio’s testimony?  Paulio may have been telling the truth, but jury couldn’t reasonably send Fair to prison for 20+ years based on the say so of an unstable street urchin.  Feel bad for the Dubey family, but the jury had to hold their nose and do the right thing.

posted by: robn on August 1, 2013  9:33pm

I’d like to know more about the supposed death threats against Paulio. If they’re fake then the cops got punked and that’s the end of it. If they’re real, then there’s a real problem.

posted by: Ozzie on August 2, 2013  7:12am

Lets hope that Mr. Fair’s comment of going back to school and straighening his life out rings true, or does he go back to the hood and cause mayhem again

posted by: Noteworthy on August 2, 2013  11:02am

Be Fair Notes:

1. When so many Fair family members have been accused and/or convicted of crimes - and now, one is acquitted, it’s disingenuous to call the criminal justice system “corrupt.”

2. Clearly the jury didn’t feel the evidence was there to convict or at least was not enough to overcome reasonable doubt.

3. The parents of Mitchell Dubey, with class, decorum amid extreme grief, thanked the jury for their time and effort. They also said they believed they worked dutifully.

4. With what has become typical, Barbara Fair says, “The crooked system did not prevail.” This comment is offensive and insensitive. That’s just for starters.

posted by: Yair on August 2, 2013  11:06am

I was struck by Barbara Fair’s comment: “The crooked system did not prevail”.  The verdict shows, on the contrary, that the system is NOT crooked, and DID prevail. The system is that defendants have certain protections under the law and can’t be found guilty without sufficient evidence.

posted by: LadyERT on August 2, 2013  11:07am

@Ozzie- Do you know first hand that this young man is from “the hood” or that he has ever “wreaked havoc”?

posted by: Dee Rien on August 2, 2013  11:29am

@Yair—if you were the mother of a boy held in jail for almost a year on such flimsy evidence, you’d probably think the system was crooked, too, despite the fact that your son was eventually acquitted. The kid can never get that year back.

posted by: HhE on August 2, 2013  12:31pm

LadyERT ,


Eather way, this stinks.  If Mr. Fair is inosent (vs. found not gulity), then he spent over a year in jail unjustly.  If commited the crime, then he got little over a year for taking someone else’s life.  In any event, Mr. Dubley’s murder does not get the justice he deserves.

posted by: habitue on August 2, 2013  7:35pm

@ Ozzie, Noteworthy & Yair: Thank you for expressing yourselves in a rational, mature and respectful manner. I wish that people gloating and preempting in such situations would have their postings disallowed. A family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances have lost a good soul to a senseless & evil murderer. Sometimes it seems like protesters in our city are riled up because NHPD didn’t arrest someone politely enough. Why don’t we concentrate on reducing the senseless death rate of our youth regardless the race of the victims vs. perpetrators.

posted by: Ozzie on August 3, 2013  3:41pm

@ Lady ERT From reading news articles Mr. Dubey was murdered at his home , which was on Bassett St. between Newhall St. and Winchester Ave.  which is in the middle of Newhallville ( you cant get much more hood then that ) unless your living in the Hill off of Congress Ave. and Mr Fair lived right around the corner . As for Mr. Fair causing mayhem your question was answered by HhE, just click on the web site for information.

posted by: swatty on August 3, 2013  9:32pm

Mitch stays dead. He’s been dead over a year now and he’ll stay dead. God rest his soul.

posted by: formerNHIT on August 5, 2013  10:39am

Stories like this remind me of why I never moved to New Haven.  Mitchell Dubey was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and the cops could not even find the right guy to arrest.  Its sad.

Hopefully a new mayor and new city management will push policies that will help eliminate the root causes for this soft of violent behavior.  More jobs for working class people for one… would be a big help.

posted by: LadyERT on August 6, 2013  7:31am

Mr. Fair does not have a long record of convictions. Just one low level robbery. Is that “mayhem”? I think not. The kids riding bikes and assaulting people on a daily basis? THAT is mayhem. Judging people by their past has made fools out of many people.