By Andy Stiny The Santa Fe New Mexican
SANTA FE — Former Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Deputy Tai Chan will be tried a third time in the 2014 shooting death of fellow Deputy Jeremy Martin, but this time the charge will be voluntary manslaughter instead of murder.
Chan admitted shooting Martin multiple times at the Hotel Encanto in Las Cruces just after midnight on Oct. 28, after both deputies returned from a night of heavy drinking, but Chan claimed he shot in self-defense. The lawmen were returning from delivering a prisoner to Arizona.
Murder trials in 2016 and 2017 ended with mistrials after juries were unable to reach unanimous verdicts on first- or second-degree murder counts.
Third Judicial District Attorney Mark D’Antonio said in a statement Thursday that his office will seek a grand jury indictment for manslaughter and prosecute the case.
D’Antonio had recused his office and appointed attorneys from the New Mexico Office of the Superintendent of Insurance to serve as special prosecutors for a third trial that was scheduled for August. But special prosecutor Troy Davis withdrew from the case, referring to a judge’s May order dismissing the murder charges. After jurors in the second trial reached an impasse the judge dismissed those charges partly based on a state Supreme Court decision in another case that said when a jury is deadlocked, the trial judge must confirm that there was not unanimous agreement that the defendant was not guilty of one or more lesser included charge.
In his court filing to withdraw, Davis said Chan “possibly needs to be reindicted for Voluntary Manslaughter with a firearm enhancement.”
A date to present the voluntary manslaughter case to a grand jury has not been determined, D’Antonio said.
“After consulting with the family of Deputy Jeremy Martin and Las Cruces Police Department, our office has determined that this is the best course of action to take,” D’Antonio’s statement said. “We will make sure that justice is served.”
Chan’s Santa Fe attorney, John Day, has maintained that Martin attacked Chan in their hotel room and that Chan acted out of fear for his life when he shot Martin multiple times as Martin fled from the room.
Chan testified in his own defense at his trials.
In October 2017, Martin’s widow, Sarah Martin, filed a lawsuit against Chan and a Las Cruces bar where the two deputies drank on the night of the shooting. The lawsuit, filed in state District Court by Santa Fe attorney David Foster, alleges that Dublin’s Street Pub and Grill and its staff were negligent in over-serving the deputies. The filing alleges that Chan was served a Red Bull energy drink mixed with alcohol, which the manufacturer warns against on a label on its product.
The lawsuit, citing court testimony, states that Chan’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit for a driver at the time that Chan shot Martin.