The second trial of Tai Chan, the sheriff’s deputy accused of shooting and killing fellow deputy Jeremy Martin, is underway in New Mexico. Chan’s first trial ended in a mistrial after a jury couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict. Watch live streaming video of the trial (when it is available) in player above starting at 8:00 a.m. local time, 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
Chan and Martin were both working for the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department in October 2014 when they stopped overnight while returning home from a long-distance prisoner transport assignment. The deputies went to a Hooters restaurant and then to a hotel. In the hotel, Chan fired ten rounds at Martin. Five rounds struck him. Martin died shortly later.
Chan took the stand in his first trial. There, he claimed Martin hit him in the face and then threatened to kill him with Chan’s own department-issued weapon. Chan then told jurors that the two deputies struggled for the gun. Chan eventually said that he took control of the weapon and started shooting. Martin took off. Chan left the room as well and shot Martin in the hallway outside the room.
During opening statements, defense attorneys told jurors Chan would take the stand again in his second trial.
Defense attorneys objected Monday to a recording of statements Chan made to the police in a squad car and back at the police station. Both the defense and the prosecution stipulated that an edited version of the six to seven hour long conversation would be presented. Both sides also stipulated that the jurors would have a transcript to follow along. The defense prepared the transcript, and it appears the prosecution did the editing. The editing was supposed to cut out only those areas of silence where no one was speaking.
The defense claims that exculpatory statements by Chan — including statements that he thought his life was in danger or that he feared Martin would kill him — were in the transcript, but not in the edited version presented to the jury.
The prosecution shot back with a two-fold argument: first, that the witness didn’t recall hearing those statements from Chan, and second, that no one in the prosecutor’s office would have maliciously edited the statements out of the recording.
Chan’s attorneys moved for a full mistrial due to misconduct by the prosecution. Judge Fernando Macias denied that motion, ruling that since jurors only heard one area of the recording where actual statements were not included, the impact was minimal on the proceedings. The judge did order that a complete audio file be presented.
Later witnesses described the sequence of shots fired in the hotel room and in the hallway.
Det. Frank Torres testified that key card activity logged on the hotel’s computer indicated that Martin left the hotel room several times and then keyed back in. He believes Martin was looking for Chan. Police recovered five shell casings in the room and five shell casings in the hallway. Torres testified that Chan shot Martin five times: three times as he was leaving the room and twice in the hallway. All of the shots were to the victim’s back. Torres also testified that a gym bag containing Chan’s gun holster was lying upside down on the floor next to a bed containing Chan’s blood on a bed sheet. The bed was askew from the wall. Torres testified that the positioning of the bed, the bag, and the blood were signs of a struggle, perhaps.
Chan’s lawyers unsuccessfully argued for a judge to dismiss the case in the months leading up to the second trial. They claimed the investigation was botched. In a separate lawsuit, a local detective sought whistleblower status, claiming she was not given the proper resources to investigate the Martin shooting. Chan’s lawyers also have sought to introduce text messages from Martin which they believe show he was living a double life. Prosecutors denied that was the case.
The second trial is expected to last ten days in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
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