LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A judge declared a mistrial Tuesday in the case of a former New Mexico sheriff’s deputy who was charged in the shooting death of a fellow deputy during what authorities described as an alcohol-fueled dispute.
The ruling came after jurors informed the judge they would not be able to reach a unanimous decision in the case of Tai Chan.
Chan was charged with first-degree murder in the October 2014 death of Jeremy Martin. The two Santa Fe County deputies had stopped in Las Cruces for the night after transporting an inmate and had been drinking before the shooting.
Jurors deliberated for less than four hours and were unable to agree on the first-degree murder charge that prosecutors were pushing for or on the lesser charges of second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter.
Chan’s first trial last year also ended in a mistrial when jurors could not reach a decision.
Defense attorney John Day said he was pleased that most jurors did not believe his client was guilty after carefully listening to two weeks of testimony.
“This sends a strong message,” he said. “If the district attorney wants to continue to try this case and waste taxpayer dollars, I would say you’re going to get similar results.”
District Attorney Mark D’Antonio said he was consulting with Martin’s family on the next step. He expected to make a decision in about a week on whether to seek another trial.
During closing arguments, prosecutors called Chan a heartless killer and said his claims of self-defense amounted to lies. They pointed to forensic evidence that included bullet trajectories and the location of casings found inside the hotel room.
They also showed photographs of Chan following his arrest. Chan had told authorities that Martin was beating him before the two struggled for the gun.
“See any injuries to his body that indicate he was in a fight for his life? No. They’re not there. They don’t exist. His story is a lie,” prosecutor Gerald Byers told jurors.
The defense said Martin was the aggressor that night and Chan was only trying to protect himself.
Day said Martin approached Chan with a gun saying he was going to shoot him while they were in their hotel room.
“It’s tragic that he died, but he made a choice. The man with the gun who fired first made a choice,” Day told the jury.
The defense also suggested the investigation into the shooting was faulty.
Responding officers found Martin wounded and staggering off one of the hotel’s elevator that night. He was taken to a Las Cruces hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Martin was unarmed, prosecutors have said.
Chan was found in a stairwell near the hotel’s roof. Prosecutors alleged that he was trying to hide.
An autopsy showed Martin was shot in the back and had other injuries that appeared related to a fight.