At 6 p.m. on Tuesday, a Las Cruces judge denied the state’s motion to hold Tai Chan behind bars while awaiting his third trial.
“It was unlawful, it’s prosecutorial misconduct, it’s vengeful,” said Tom Clark, Chan’s attorney. “This has become about egos. It isn’t about justice, it’s about who can win.”
“All this argument about bad faith or vindictiveness – I haven’t been involved in this case for four years like they have,” said George Harrison, the senior trial attorney in the Third Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
Instead, Judge Conrad Perea released Chan on a $25,000 unsecured bond.
Chan did not attend Tuesday’s hearing because he is still listed as an inmate in Sandoval County, New Mexico. Chan turned himself into custody over the weekend, said his defense attorney.
“I thought it was a clerical mistake that somehow the Magistrate had issued a warrant,” Clark said. “It wasn’t by mistake. It was intentional and it was designed to keep our client behind bars.”
The district attorney’s office argued that Chan’s history of abusing alcohol made him a danger to society.
“We have no indication he has received any treatment for his alcoholism,” Harrison said, adding “we have no way of knowing, but we know he’s an alcoholic. We know he’s a dangerous alcoholic and we don’t know that it’s been dealt with.”
Chan is facing a voluntary manslaughter charge in connection with the killing of his former Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Deputy at Hotel Encanto in 2014. Chan admitted to shooting Jeremy Martin, but insisted it was self-defense.
“He’s not guilty,” Clark said. “He didn’t commit murder.”
“I think the important thing to realize here is we have a very serious case with a dead deputy and it needs to go trial,” Harrison said.
In an unexpected move, the defense asked the court to sanction the Third Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
“I’ve been a lawyer for 23 years and I’ve never, ever asked for sanctions because I’ve never seen something as egregious as this,” Clark said. “To agree to a bond in October and then ask for a warrant less than a month later… it’s unimaginable to me.”
This will be the third time his case goes to trial. The first two cases ended in mistrials.