The second trial of Tai Chan, the sheriff’s deputy accused of murdering 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 for drinks 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 and claimed Martin threatened to kill him with Chan’s own department-issued weapon. Defense attorneys told jurors Chan would take the stand again in his second trial.
Jurors on Tuesday heard from a bartender who served the men drinks before they returned to the hotel. The bartender, Ernest Venegas, said that Chan and Martin argued. At one point, he had to get between them, but they said that they were friends and that things would be fine. Venegas said that Chan came across as aggressive, especially when compared with Martin. He said Chan had a “clenched” or “frustrated” look on his face.
Irma Palos, a local police officer, tried to explain why tests on some pieces of evidence weren’t even ordered until the middle of Chan’s first trial. She blamed an “oversight” for her failure to submit a bloody bed comforter from the hotel room to the crime lab for analysis. The blood on the comforter was Chan’s, not Martin’s. She also explained that her previous grand jury testimony occurred before some of the evidence in the case was tested or reviewed, and that her answers in this case were accordingly different due to new reviews or tests. (Palos has claimed whistleblower status in a separate case. She is accusing the local police department of failing to give her the resources necessary to adequately examine the Chan case.)
Police psychologist Phil Trompetter, a defense witness allowed to testify early to avoid a scheduling conflict, said he believes Chan was perceiving a deadly threat from Martin and that Chan acted in a way consistent with the way officers are trained to handle deadly threats.
The second trial is expected to last ten days in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
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