Monday, June 1, 2015

Mary Han: New Mexico; More than four years after her death questions linger about the Albuquerque Police Department’s probe of the death of this noted defense and civil rights attorney. The Charles Smith Blog will be following developments.

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Disturbing questions have been raised about the integrity of the investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department investigation into the death of high profile defence and civil rights attorney Mary Han in 2010 - and the conclusion of the New Mexico Office of Medical Investigation that the death was a "suicide" by carbon monoxide investigation. As the following commentary shows,  the questions are not going away - and may become more intense in the light of litigation now under way in the civil courts. This Blog will be keeping an eye on developments

COMMENTARY: "How APD botched the Mary Han death probe," by David Correia, published by ABQ  Free Press on February 10, 2015; (David Correia is a freelance writer and a professor at the University of New Mexico.)

SUB-HEADING: "Four Years Later, lingering questions remain in the Albuquerque Police Department’s probe of the death of noted defense and civil rights attorney Mary Han."

GIST: "At 3:26 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010, prominent Albuquerque attorney Mary Han emailed her banker at Wells Fargo. “I’m about to pay off the remainder of the balance on my line of credit,” she wrote. “I would like to know whether I will be able to borrow another $120,000 next year and at what interest rate. Thanks. Mary.” Less than 24 hours later she would be dead. According to at least one Albuquerque Police official, she killed herself because she was depressed. The New Mexico Office of Medical Investigation called it a suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. But the events of the last few days of her life – days spent making short- and long-term plans for the future – and the strange circumstances surrounding what her family calls a “botched” investigation of her death, have led her family, friends and even some former Albuquerque police officers to doubt the claim by APD officials that she killed herself.........Han was prominent among civil rights and criminal defense attorneys, but was especially prominent for her success in bringing lawsuits against the Albuquerque Police Department, against which she had won judgments. News of Han’s death began to spread via texts and phone calls among APD officers and officials. Within an hour of Kennedy’s 911 call, every one of APD’s deputy chiefs was on the scene.........APD Commander Paul Feist walked into the garage with crime lab director Mark Adams while Muniz and a medical examiner were taking photographs of the body and the car. Feist had 20 years experience in the criminalistics unit. McCutcheon described Feist as someone who “literally wrote the book on crime scene investigation,” telling me, “If you were at a crime scene you wanted Feist there. He did things by the book. He always took the extra step. And yet on this case he violated every standard operating procedure,” McCutcheon said......... A year after Han’s death, Rosario Vega Lynn, an Albuquerque attorney representing Mary Han’s estate, arranged to have the BMW 330i tested to find out why it had turned off. On two separate occasions in the fall of 2011, McCutcheon, by then retired from APD, and another technician placed the car in an enclosed trailer with a tank full of gas and a carbon monoxide monitor. With cameras running, they sat around a video display and a bucket of chicken and waited. They were long nights. The car never shut off. On both occasions it ran until it was out of gas. In both tests, in a trailer three-times smaller than Han’s garage, it took nearly four hours to achieve fatal levels of carbon monoxide. Han’s family sued the City of Albuquerque claiming that APD “hindered, obstructed, and defeated the due course of justice with the intent to deny Plaintiffs equal protection under the law.” A judge dismissed their claim. In a move that has generated controversy in the city’s legal community, the City is now suing Mary Han’s family to recoup its legal costs in the lawsuit. That case, and an appeal of the dismissal, is pending. Regardless of the outcome of the legal cases, it would be difficult now to investigate Han’s death as a possible homicide, or even prove a suicide. Evidence is missing. The scene was unsecured. Many of the people at the scene were not interviewed. “When I realized what happened at that house,” McCutcheon told me, “the hair stood up on the back of my neck. One of two things happened that day. Either it was an absolute case of total incompetence by everyone involved, or it was cover-up. Those are the only two possibilities.”
The entire commentary can be found at:

See Justice for Mary Han petition: "High ranking personnel of the Albuquerque Police Department who were on opposite sides of the courtroom from Mary Han for years entered her home uninvited on November 18, 2010. They trespassed on her property, viewed her body and declared the scene a suicide within minutes. APD violated every single standard operating procedure and law enforcement and code of conduct."

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