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Judge: Work records in slain deputy case can be withheld

LAS CRUCES —

Former Santa Fe  County deputy Tai Chan, left, is charged with murder in the shooting death of deputy Jeremy Martin, right, when the two were in Las Cruces during a prisoner transport trip.

Former Santa Fe County deputy Tai Chan, left, is charged with murder in the shooting death of deputy Jeremy Martin, right, when the two were in Las Cruces during a prisoner transport trip.

The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office does not have to release work records of one of its deputies who was shot and killed by a colleague in October at a Las Cruces hotel, a state district judge has ruled.

The ruling came in response to a motion filed in February by attorneys representing Tai Chan, 28, the former Santa Fe deputy who is charged in the Oct. 28, 2014, slaying of 29-year-old Jeremy Martin. The attorneys sought access to the slain deputy’s work records, including results from a psychological exam, and it appears they will continue to fight for the records despite the ruling.

Chan’s defense believes the records would reveal Martin’s “proclivity for violence” and support Chan’s self-defense claim that Martin acted as the initial “aggressor” on the evening of the shooting at Hotel Encanto, 705 S. Telshor Blvd., where the deputies planned to spend the night before heading back to Santa Fe.

Chan is accused of firing several times at Martin inside the hotel during an alcohol-fueled argument, which authorities believe began hours earlier at Dublin’s Street Pub, 1745 E. University Ave. An autopsy revealed Martin had been shot five times from the back and died of gunshot wounds.

In refusing to release Martin’s work records, the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office has contended that the documents are protected by New Mexico’s Inspection of Public Records Act.

Nearly a month after arguments were heard in 3rd Judicial District Court in Las Cruces, Judge Fernando Macias denied the motion in a ruling filed April 17.

“The defendant has not presented the court with any evidence that would tend to show the alleged victim’s aggressive nature or proclivity of violence or mental instability,” the ruling reads. “Thus, there is no reasonable basis on which to believe that it is likely that the requested records contain material information.”

In reaction, Chan’s attorney, John Day of Santa Fe, said, “We respectfully disagree with Judge Macias’ opinion.”

On Thursday, Day implied that he would continue to fight for access to Martin’s work records. “Right now, we believe we have other options to access these secret files, and we’re weighing those options,” he said. “There’s a reason why Santa Fe County has spent thousands of dollars in lawyers’ fee to keep these files secret, and we want to find out why.”

Day also said the ruling wouldn’t have much negative impact on Chan’s case “because it’s still early in the case.”

However, Day voiced concerns about the 3rd Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which he said is withholding documents and evidence related to Chan’s case.

“The DA’s office has failed to turn over a lot of evidence, and that’s very concerning,” Day said.

In response, District Attorney Mark D’Antonio, said in a statement, “I will never acquiesce to tan attempt by any entity or person to try this very serious case in the public forum. Before a formal trial is convened, we all must remember that the victim left behind a widow and children, and the defendant has a constitutional right to a fair trial.”

Before Macias ruled on the motion, he requested additional arguments from Day and state prosecutors.

In a court documents filed April 2, Day introduced two photos of blood-stained bed sheets taken by authorities from inside the deputies’ shared room at Hotel Encanto.

Day said DNA tests conducted by the state’s crime laboratory confirm that the blood belongs to Chan.

According to Day, the photo evidence suggests “Deputy Martin physically attacked Deputy Chan in the hotel room prior to and/or contemporaneously with the shooting.”

In November, Chan pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. He is currently living in Santa Fe under house arrest.

Chan’s trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 28 before Macias in Las Cruces.

Carlos Andres López can be reached at 575-541-5453.

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©2015 the Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N.M.)

Visit the Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N.M.) at www.lcsun-news.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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