By Margaret Wright
— Federal Magistrate Judge Carmen Garza has dismissed a civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of Mary Han’s family against the city of Albuquerque and 12 city employees. The lawsuit alleged constitutional violations at the crime scene after Han was found dead. City officials were listed as defendants in the case, including top brass of the Albuquerque Police Department.
On Nov. 18, 2010, Han’s body was discovered in her home by her law partner, former state Supreme Court Judge Paul Kennedy. The investigation of the crime scene was “terribly mishandled due to inappropriate directions from high-ranking police and civilian administrators with the city of Albuquerque,” according to findings released last year by the Attorney General’s Office. Mishandling of the crime scene was the crux of the federal case submitted before Judge Garza on behalf of Han and her daughter, Katherine Han-Noggle.
Defendants in the suit included former police chiefs Ray Schultz and Allen Banks, ex-Public Safety Director Darren White and Chief Administrative Office Rob Perry, then a city attorney. Also named was former Deputy Chief Paul Feist, who was promoted to oversee APD’s detective unit the month after Han’s death.
Yesterday Garza rejected all of the alleged constitutional violations in the lawsuit. Garza noted in her case analysis that “Plaintiffs may never have the evidence with which to bring a wrongful death suit due to the actions of defendants.” Botched police work, she wrote, isn’t a constitutional violation.
This may not be the end of the road for Han’s family. Garza also wrote that the family can bring a wrongful death claim, thought the statute of limitations may act as a final barrier: The case languished in district court before it was filed for federal court review. Rosario Lynn Vega, who represented Han’s family in this lawsuit, says they will appeal the decision.
Read the judge’s full dismissal order and memo: