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Homicide case against former Santa Fe deputy dropped

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A special prosecutor has dismissed the criminal case against Tai Chan, the former Santa Fe County deputy accused of the shooting death of a fellow deputy at a Las Cruces hotel in 2014.

But the action doesn’t necessarily mean Chan is totally in the clear.

Chan, 31, has been tried twice for murder in the death of 29-year-old deputy Jeremy Martin on Oct. 24, 2014. The two deputies were staying in Las Cruces on their way back from delivering a prisoner to Arizona.

Both prosecutions ended in mistrials after juries couldn’t reach unanimous verdicts.

Chan maintains he shot Martin in self-defense after a night of drinking and arguing with Martin.

In his Wednesday filing dropping the case, special prosecutor Troy J. Davis said Chan “possibly needs to be re-indicted for Voluntary Manslaughter with a firearm enhancement.”

“Re-indictment of charges will cure any issues raised by the defense,” the filing said.

Davis also said the dismissal ends his appointment to the case. Davis, an attorney in the fraud division of the state Office of the Superintendent of Insurance, was appointed to take over the case by Las Cruces District Attorney Mark D’Antonio after the two mistrials.

D’Antonio said “fresh eyes” on the case would help.

With Davis out of the picture, any new indictment of Chan apparently would have to be pursued by D’Antonio. The district attorney and another top prosecutor in his office couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.

The drawn-out case became more problematic in May, when District Court Judge Conrad Perea ruled against further prosecution of Chan for murder on double jeopardy grounds.

Perea found that another judge who presided over Chan’s second trial last year had failed to poll the jurors to clear up questions about their impasse on a range of charges from first-degree murder to manslaughter.

On July 31, John Day, Chan’s attorney, filed a motion calling for dismissal of the case, saying the only existing indictment of Chan was for first-degree murder. Because the judge ruled against trying Chan again for murder, and there is no existing document that charges Chan with any other crime, the case against Chan should be definitively dismissed, particularly given the two mistrials, the motion said.

In a brief interview Thursday, Davis said his decision to drop the prosecution was a response to the legal defects in the case raised by the defense dismissal motion. “My sympathies go out to Mrs. (Sarah) Martin,” Davis said, referring to the slain deputy’s wife.

Before Martin’s death, the two deputies argued and drank heavily at a bar, then returned to their room at the Hotel Encanto.

Martin died after being shot five times in the back and arm. Ten shots were fired from Chan’s duty weapon. But who shot the gun first and who was the aggressor in the struggle were disputed at trial.