Defense questions plans for new charge against ex-deputy
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — An attorney for a former Santa Fe County sheriff’s deputy on Friday questioned prosecutors’ motivation in planning to bring a voluntary manslaughter charge against the officer, noting juries twice cleared him of murder charges in the shooting death of a fellow deputy.
Attorney Tom Clark’s comments came a day after District Attorney Mark D’Antonio in Las Cruces said his office will seek a grand jury indictment for voluntary manslaughter against Tai Chan. He is accused of opening fire on Deputy Jeremy Martin at a Las Cruces hotel during a work trip.
Since the 2014 shooting, juries seated for two different trials have been unable to reach unanimous verdicts on murder counts against Chan, and a judge in May ruled against further prosecution of Chan for murder on double jeopardy grounds.
“One begins to wonder what’s really driving this,” Clark said. “Is it a need for justice or is it ego?”
D’Antonio says he’s seeking the lesser charge after consulting with police and Martin’s family.
A special prosecutor last month withdrew from the case ahead of a third trial in August, saying the district attorney possibly needed to re-indict Chan for voluntary manslaughter with a firearm enhancement.
“We will make sure that justice is served,” D’Antonio said in a statement.
Chan has long maintained he opened fire in self-defense after a night of drinking and arguing with Martin, 29, who died after he was 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 in court.
Chan has claimed Martin fired the first shot. He said he later gained control of the firearm and fired on Martin in self-defense.
The two deputies were staying in Las Cruces on their way back to Santa Fe after transporting a prisoner to Arizona.