Skip to main content

tv   Dateline Extra  MSNBC  October 2, 2016 2:00pm-3:01pm PDT

2:00 pm
i learned that he was arrested. i was shocked. i was so confused. i didn't think it was real. i didn't think it was possible. >> in the rarefied world of the ivy league, he was the total package -- star student, gifted athlete, wildly popular. >> he was one of the nicest guys ever. >> no one could understand how a weekend visit to his parents' house -- >> you say you heard a shot? >> yes. >> -- ended in gunfire. >> who's already there? >> charlie told the officers outside he was going to kill my mom, i had to do it. >> yes. >> a brave son protecting his mom. a harrowing story.
2:01 pm
but was it true? >> he's seated behind a desk, the father. >> yeah. defenseless, really. >> this seems to be an execution. >> was this campus hero actually a cold-hearted killer? >> the defendant sends an e-mail to his fraternity brothers called "showtime." >> or was the truth something completely different? >> one of the things that was always a question was, was charlie covering up for someone else. >> a trial where nothing went by the book. >> three of the jurors were crying really hard. >> they're turning around in their seats, getting emotional. they see what's coming. >> he was becoming unhinged. >> welcome to "date line extra." i'm tamron hall. he was an ivy league we are a bright future. it seemed like charlie tan had the whole world aohead of him. but then charlie's father was killed in the tan home and everything changed.
2:02 pm
police were being told one story but evidence was telling them another. there were also three 911 calls. did one of them hold a clue that would unlock what really happened on that wintry night? here's dennis murphy with "house of secrets." >> cayuga. that's cayuga lake in ithaca, new york, and where you'll find one of the most prestigious universities in the nation. cornell, the ivy league big red. more than 13,000 undergrads work toward degree will with good fortune take their places in medicine, the law, the arts. there's no doubt a cornell education can be a gold-plated entrance to adult life and only the best need apply. students like charlie tan. he was so kind his high school classmate featured him in a
2:03 pm
video random acts of kindness, giving gifts to complete strangers. >> not just a great kid but the greatest of great kids. >> charlie was the son of chinese immigrants who became mr. everything in his high school years. scholar, athlete, class president. the guy with the cool friends. hanna valentine opened up her parents' summer lake house to charlie and his other teenage pals. >> such a nice guy, always happy and energetic. >> personality, the kind of guy that comes in a room and tells jokes? >> everybody knows him, walk in, and the room lights up, he starts telling a funny story. >> so you'd think charlie tan was another ivy league overachiever poised for takeoff and great things to come. but that's not this story. this is about the charlie tan keeper of secrets and quite possibly something much worse. but before all that, charlie was as deserving a kid as ever got an ivy league acceptance letter. >> he was really excited when he got admitted. that was awesome.
2:04 pm
>> ivy league. >> yeah. he was so excited, he, like, was super happy. >> so in the fall of 2013, charlie tan left his parents' home near rochester, new york, and drove the few hours to cornell. his exciting new chapter in a life already filled with early achieveme achievements. he pledged a frat. he wasn't big enough for cornell's varsity football team, so at 165 pounds he was directed toward what they call the sprint football team. >> i met charlie the first day freshman year actually. i had just gotten my locker and charlie was one of the first people i met. >> quarterback rob panolo. >> he was one of the most encouraging team players we have. a leader on the team both by example and through hi words. >> rob and charlie became not just teammates but great friends. >> he's one of the most generous and selfless people i've ever met. >> charlie impressed his teammates and his coach. terry cullen coaches the lighter weight players. >> good football player, quiet, always got a smile. never late.
2:05 pm
hard worker. good kid. solid. >> go back to the handsome house in the rochester suburbs where charlie grew up in his teenage years. it's a place called pittsford, new york, and newspaper reporter john hand knows it well. >> it's a very nice community, very picturesque. >> big lawns, nice cars in the granl? >> yeah. big houses. lots of executives from kodak and xerox and lawyers. >> charlie was the younger of two boys. his parents, jim and jean, born in china, lived in canada before moving charlie and his brother to upstate new york. his dad ran a tech business that thrived. the home just radiated upper middle class comfort. his friend anna had been there on occasion. >> i went over the his house. i didn't know his parents very well. i talked to his mom a couple times but i didn't really have much conversation with them when they were there. >> little was known about his parents, and charlie didn't offer any details if someone asked. if he had secrets, sorrows, they weren't for the outside world to
2:06 pm
know about. >> he's very good at, like, keeping his emotions in. >> i had no idea what the home situation was like. i didn't know before and i don't know now. >> other than a few 911 dispatchers and a few town officers, the wider community, the friends of charlie tan certainly knew nothing about the whispers of domestic violence on classic coachside lane. >> he's a very stoic individual. a tough part of his life. >> the record is still sealed but it's safe to say the tan house was known to authorities. go back to cornell. it's the winter of 2015 and charlie is now a sophomore. on a chilly thursday morning, he stopped in unexpectedly to visit his football coach. there is a softer side to this coach than drills and xs and os. and his kids know he'll always be there for them. >> our rule is, you know, if you have a problem, come on in, we'll close the door. if you need somebody to talk to, we're here. >> now it was charlie who needed a shoulder or something. >> i said how you doing, he said
2:07 pm
good, but i can't make weight lifting on friday. i said, what's the problem? he said i have to go home. >> charlie seemed emotional. clearly something was eating at the student. >> i asked him if there was anything he wanted to talk about and he declined. so he just said he had to get home. >> it wasn't spring break. classes were in session. but charlie got in his car and started the drive to pittsford 100 miles away. coach didn't know but charlie tan's life as a student at cornell would soon be over. >> you didn't worry about charlie. he's very squared away, got his act together. know what is he's doing. >> only charlie tan wasn't at all okay. it snowed that night, a muffling blanket, covering the home where something awful was about to happen. >> coming up -- why did charlie need to rush home? the first clue coming from a friend's mom who called 911. >> he didn't give us a lot of details. i'm just worried that he might
2:08 pm
do something at his house. >> then charlie's mom makes a 911 call of her own. >> did you say you heard a shot? >> yes. >> does somebody in the house have a gun?
2:09 pm
2:10 pm
2:11 pm
welcome back too "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. charlie tan was studying among the academic elite at a prestigious university. he was bright, athletic, and made friends easily. when it came to his family, he played it close to the vest. so when his name was linked to violence in his hometown, it took the campus and his friends by surprise. here again is dennis murphy with "house of secrets."
2:12 pm
>> when charlie tan left campus, his football coach knew he'd been upset. >> i asked him to call me when he got home so i knew he was okay. >> that very evening back in pittsford, new york, charlie spent time at an old friend's house where he seemed to his pal deeply despondent, sad, possibly depressed. not the charlie he'd known since childhood. after charlie left, the friend and his mother were so concerned they called 911. was charlie suicidal? >> he didn't give us a lot of details. i'm just worried that he might do something at his house. i don't know if anything's going to happen, but i just can't take a chance. >> all right. i'm going to have them go to that house and check on him. >> and a deputy did just that. detective steve peglo of the monroe county sheriff's office. >> charlie told the deputy he was just upset over some things, he'd come home to talk to people, and that he was just working out some things and he would be okay. >> it was now late thursday night, almost the weekend.
2:13 pm
charlie didn't go back to school friday morning, and come monday he wasn't at practice. >> wasn't really much i could do anyway other than text him, and he didn't respond. >> and then it was monday night. something awful. >> 911. what is the address of the emergency? >> yes. hi. >> the caller so distraught, confused the dispatcher. >> i heard an argument and my -- my son was -- talked to my husband. >> ma'am, i can't understand anything you're saying. does anyone need an ambulance? >> it was jean tan, charl yoois mother. >> did you say you heard a shot? >> yes. >> does somebody in the house have a gun? >> now the garbled story was coming into focus, shots fired, the husband, the man of the house, was dead. >> who's already dead? >> my husband. >> your who? >> my husband. >> are you in a safe spot?
2:14 pm
>> yes. i am. >> we need you to wait outside of the house for the police officers' safety. >> detective peglo was soon en route to coachside lane. he still only had a garbled account from the 911 call. who had shot whom? >> he was trying to protect me. >> your son was trying to protect you? >> yes. >> it looked like it was what we would call a domestic murder. it was -- something had just occurred. >> on arrival, the fist deputies on the scene saw a young man turn out to be 19-year-old charlie tan standing in the driveway with his mother. they're outside the house. >> a safety thing for the deputies. no reason to go in. let those people come out. they asked who else was in the house. >> in the next moments the deputies heard the son tell a story that sounded like self-defense. he had to shoot, he said, to save his mother. he used a shotgun. >> charlie said my dad's in there. he's dead. i had to do it. he was going to hurt my mom. >> the father is shot because the boy feels his mother's in
2:15 pm
jeopardy. >> yes. >> it was getting late on a frigid february night. the deputies put the son and the mother in a patrol car. >> they asked him where the shot xwun was. there was some mention of it being in the garage. >> after securing the weapon, the deputies made their way into the home. on the second floor in the home office, they found their victim. the husband, the father, is behind the desk? >> behind the desk. spent shotgun shells are all right there in that doorway area. >> detective would kwkly learn more about jim tan -- father, husband, and businessman. >> he owned his own company. they had lived in canada and then moved to the united states some years earlier. >> successful executive, huh? >> by all accounts, yes. >> but was the successful businessman also an abusive husband? detective peglo looked around the household as crime scene techs processed a shotgun killing upstairs. they came upon an appointment card for jean tan to appear at domestic violence court. so the working theory,
2:16 pm
justifiable homicide, made some sense. but detective peglo was no rookie. his investigation into charlie tan and what happened inside that home was just getting started. >> one of the investigators found what appeared to be newly taken passport photos along with a list of prom innocent local defense attorneys. >> that's interesting. yes, sir. >> his theory is i had to do it but you're not taking that at face value. >> correct. >> coming up -- a discovery on jim tan's computer, suspicions about hi time of death. >> how many days prior is the last e-mail check? >> four. that was the big thing for me. yet up to 90% fall short in getting key nutrients from food alone. let's do more. add one a day men's gummies. complete with key nutrients plus b vitamins to help convert food into fuel. one a day.
2:17 pm
2:18 pm
2:19 pm
welcome back to "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. police arrived at the home of jim tan to find him lying behind the december income his home office, shot dead. his son, charlie, told police he did it. he said he was defending hi mother. so case closed. far from it. let's turn to dennis murphy with "house of secrets."
2:20 pm
>> deputies canvassed the neighborhood, but no one heard the gunshot blast that killed jim tan. but then this homicide wasn't a whodunit. the son had admitted moments after deputies arrived that he'd been shooter. he had to do it, he said, to protect his mom. >> self-defense is something we'll listen to. if that's what happened, the law will bear that out. we wanted to speak to him to determine that. >> that same night charlie and his mother were taken down to the station to tell their stories. were you able to get a statement from the son, charlie? >> we would not. his lawyer would not allow us to speak to him. >> his lawyer was already on scene? >> his lawyer was on scene a few minutes after me. >> without the cooperation of the admitted participants, the mother and the son, the detectives were on their own. it turns out a very large piece of evidence was waiting to be found right there in their very office. a report from the house on coachside lane. >> 91 1, what's the emergency? >> just two weeks before the shooting police records show the wife placed another 911 call.
2:21 pm
>> yes. hi. my name is jean tan and my husband just beats me up and he need your protection. >> are you hurt? >> yes. he choke me and i'm so scared. please. >> do you want an ambulance? >> no. please come. please come. >> the dispatcher heard what sounded like an ongoing fight between husband and wife. >> hello? >> sorry. >> a deputy was sent to the house and noticed jean tan, the wife, was clearly rattled. reporter john hand of rochester's democr"democrat & chronicle" newspaper. >> they found that jean was still upset. she had some red marks on her neck. but that there wasn't enough
2:22 pm
there to charge jim tan with a crime. >> so incident over. >> that night. >> he tried to kill me but nothing results in terms of charges or makes it into the paperwork. >> correct. >> so a history of abuse it appeared. if that were the case, charlie had told no one in his circle at cornell university. up on campus, coach cullen hadn't heard from charlie in days. and now his phone rang. >> campus police called me up and asked me to come to his fraternity house, which i did. they wanted me to know that charlie's father had been killed. it was rugged. we've got a bunch of players in that -- in the fraternity, and everybody was obviously very upset. >> charlie tan admitting that he'd shot his father to death. >> i think it was probably disbelief more than -- and shock that this occurred. >> we had a team meeting about it, but immediately after there
2:23 pm
was so much support for him and everyone was amazed by the support. >> from the get-go there was no debate. the entire frat and team had charl yoois back. >> not just the sprint football team but everybody on the cornell campus that he knew well was showing support for him. everyone was always trying to help him and ask if there was anything we could do for him. >> to his friends at home, there was shofk of course there, too. and yet the heartbreaking story of charlie tan protecting his mom by any means necessary made some kind of weird sense. he was, after all, the kid who was always trying hard to help. people talk about him being selfless. lives to help other people. >> he would do anything for people. >> close friend anna had a hard time wrapping her head around charlie doing anything violent. the charlie she knew was a thoughtful kid who did things no ordinary teenager did. >> my mom went through cancer and he was always there, he brought her, like, gifts and stuff. he was always there supporting
2:24 pm
anybody. >> so anna, too, would be there supporting charlie through this difficult time, a friend to the end. neither she nor anyone else could have guessed where the investigation was heading next, that the detective who'd examined the scene that night was wondering if there was more to the story. it was all obvious right away that something was off with the working theory of the crime pap heat of passion self-defense homicide. >> we were there for hours, obviously searching every bit. one of the things that was noticed by one of to the investigators was just, you know, the dry blood that was all over. >> dried blood. the time line and the whole story, in fact, demanded a closer look. >> it's certainly one of the things that starts to get your attention that, okay, hang on, there might be more. let's make sure we're on the right path here. ? and there were other observations that set their time line back. on jim tan's desk computer where he'd apparently been working when he was killed, there were unopened e-mails going back before the weekend. >> jim is trading some e-mails
2:25 pm
with an employee and then at some point after that he clearly stopped using his computer. he is no longer sending or opening. >> and as detectives poked around that office monday night -- how many days prior is the last e-mail check? >> four. >> four days. >> that was really a big thing for me. this was aguy that ran his own company, you know, with employees and activity. >> going back four days. that put the shooting back to that thursday night charlie came home from cornell. and a four-day-old crime scene would also explain what had been plainly obvious to the seasoned detective's nose. >> the odor of decomposition was very strong. >> the detective now believed that emotional 911 call was bogus, a charade. >> did you say you heard a shot? >> yes. >> his mother was in peril and he had to shoot the husband but you're saying this might be days erl wrer. what's going on here thing, right? >> correct. that first inference where from the 911 call and from what
2:26 pm
charlie had said in the driveway to the deputies seemed to be, you know, in confrontation with what we were starting to see inside. >> down at the sheriff's office, jean tan, the mother, was released from custody, but not charlie. the 19-year-old ivy leaguer was charged with second-degree murder. what did you think, anna? >> i was shocked. i was just so confused about i didn't think it was real, i didn't think it was possible. >> charlie tan, the nice boy, the great kid, if convicted, was facing 25 years to life in prison. >> coming up -- store video shows the gun that killed charlie's father being purchased. but it's not charlie buying it. new name all together here. >> correct. >> and then the strange thing charlie did just before his mom placed the 911 call. >> the defendant sends an e-mail to his fraternity brothers called "showtime." diarrhea, gas or bloating? [ simultaneously ] she does.
2:27 pm
help defend against those digestive issues. take phillips' colon health probiotic caps daily with three types of good bacteria. 400 likes? wow! phillips. be good to your gut. upgrade your phone system and learn how you could save at vonage.com/business
2:28 pm
2:29 pm
2:30 pm
richard lui with the hour's top stories. the ntsb giving an update on the train crash in hoboken, new jersey, investigators saying the train's conductor claims his cell phone was powered off and inside a bag at the time of that crash. they also say one of the train's data recorders was not working. officials say an air strike has taken out one of the largest hospitals in war torn aleppo, syria. activists claimed the facility was targeted by the syrian government. at least two people were killed. back to "dateline extra." welcome back to "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. charlie tan told police he shot his father to save his mother but investigators were finding flaws in that story. the ivy league student had been arrested and was facing second-degree murder charges. was this an intentional killing or justifiable homicide? here again is dennis murphy with
2:31 pm
"house of secrets." >> anna valentine was in a state of disbelief when she learned her close friend charlie tan had been arrest. did you have a chance to talk to charlie himself in that period? >> he called me on the phone from jail. so i talked to him a couple times. >> anna didn't sit around. she was going to do whatever she could to defend her friend because she knew there was no way charlie did anything wrong. you did something remarkable, anna. you sort of pulled together a whole community behind charlie. >> yeah. >> anna started a defense fund support page for charlie. >> it just, like, spread crazy. i had no clue what was going to happen. >> you threw it out there on the net. >> yeah. i just put up the page and told my friend i did it. people i hadn't heard from were supporting him, people from the community, everyone was doing it. >> how much did you raise? >> around $50,000. >> why did people come out of the woodwork to support charlie? >> he has just been like one of the nicest guys ever and i think everybody knew that and was just -- wanted to do anything
2:32 pm
they could to give back to him. charlie would give everything to other people. if somebody needed anything, he would be the one to give it to them. >> reporter john hand was working nonstop on one of the most talked-about stories the county had seen in years. so now it's an investigation for your news story. great ivy league kid blows away his father in this nice neighborhood. what's going on in terms of response to this event? >> we were astonished. it's not very often you have a murder suspect who a bunch of people from pittsford are rallying around. >> the case had captured the hearts and minds of a community that couldn't imagine this exceptional young man in prison. and these are lawyers and surgeons and political -- these are big, powerful people in new york state who are behind this kid. >> oh, yeah. >> we wish that didn't happen but the kid deserves a break. some of that feeling around? >> oh, yeah. the community felt that very strongly. >> so when the trial beganless than a year after the shooting, the sworn representative of the people with a murder case to
2:33 pm
prove found herself in an odd spot. >> the biggest problem was the defendant himself because he did appear to be, you know, an upstanding, nice young man. >> monroe county district attorney sandra dorley. >> from the very beginning people were disappointed that, you know, an indictment was filed against charlie tan and that we were taking this to court. but you know what, we have to prosecute people who violate the laws of our state. >> assistant d.a. bill gargen prosecuted the case in court. he told the jury, yes, charlie tan was a high achiever, a bright young man, who always went the extra mile for his friend. >> perhaps he wanted to succeed as charlie tan and solve all the problems that were occurring on coachside lane. >> helping his mother. >> helping his mother. >> by killing his father. that was the solution. >> that was our theory, yes. the gun is found at the murder scene. his fingerprints are on the ammo. his mother, again, saying, my
2:34 pm
son did it. and carlie saying he had to do it. >> but did he have to do it? that was the key question. and the prosecution said no. this was no justifiable homicide. this was an execution. in fact, the weapon, a 12-gauge remington shotgun, had been purchased just for the killing, said the prosecutor. deputies found it leaning against a garbage can in the tans' garage. when they traced it, they discovered it had just been bought from a walmart near cornell. >> we sent investigators down there, and as they began to look into that, they found that the gun had been purchased by a young man named whitney knickerbocker. >> newly purchased. by some new name all together. >> correct. >> the purchase had taken place february 5th of 2015, the same day charlie left cornell. the salesman remembered the purchase and even better the store had surveillance video of charlie's friend and fellow fraternity brother buying the shotgun. video which was shown to the jury. whitney knickerbocker, the frat
2:35 pm
brother, was never accused of having anything to do with the killing. charlie apparently convinced him to help buy a gun. >> friends say that whitney was told by charlie that he was going to go on a hunting trip so he asked whitney to help him. >> of course the prosecution says there was no hunting trip. charlie was planning a murder. in fact, before he got the friend to buy the weapon, surveillance footage showed just how intent he was on getting one. hours earlier, there was charlie. >> charlie tan is on video going into the walmart attempting to purchase the shotgun. he is unable to. >> why is he turned down? why can't he buy the shotgun? >> he's a canadian citizen. >> which meant there would be a waiting period, time the prosecutors say charlie didn't have. >> he gets the friend to make a purchase. >> that was our theory, yes. >> hard to put together a heat of passion scenario, mom's in jeopardy, if you've purchased the weapon in advance. >> correct. >> and the prosecutor told the jury there was no evidence of a
2:36 pm
fight that evening. >> if you look at the exact moment of the killing, jim tan is just sitting at his desk. >> doing business. answering e-mail. >> answering e-mails. working to, you know, provide a living and a pretty good living for his family. >> in fact, the medical examiner testified that as jim tan sat behind hi december income his home office he was shot three times about the chest and face. the last shot the coup de grace. >> medical examiner still believed jim tan was alive when that was inflighted right to his face. >> the prosecutor believes that was thursday night. the same night one of charlie's friends sent a deputy to the tan home to check on charlie's welfare. it's possible that when the boy answered the door and said he was fine his dad was already dead inside. but no one from the tan home called 911 that night. rather, says the prosecutor, charlie and his mom grabbed their passports and fled country. >> jean tan and charlie tan left the country, went to canada, and
2:37 pm
came back on that monday before the 911 call was placed. >> so why come back and tell a lie? the prosecution didn't know but guess perhaps someone had to run jim tan's business. and this last tidbit, creepy, implied the state. before that four a days late 911 call was placed charlie took the time to first send a warning eshg mail to his college buddies. they would soon hear things in the news. >> the defendant sends an e-mail to his fraternity brothers called "showtime." >> you're going to be hearing from law enforcement, huh? >> yes. yes. you will be surprised. showtime. >> no jurors don't buy self-defense said the prosecutor in summation. this was no crime of passion. it was a planned murder. so this is an assassination. >> yes. >> he walks in and blows dad away. >> exactly. >> the prosecution rested. defense team was up next and they were about to lay out a head-spinning theory of the crime from seemingly another
2:38 pm
universe. no one saw it coming. coming up -- the defense drops a bombshell. >> one of the things that was always a question of ours was, was charlie covering up for someone else? >> and then the prosecution's stunning reaction. >> the shotgun, sort of moved quickly across the room. philli'! anyone ever have occasional constipation, diarrhea, gas or bloating? [ simultaneously ] she does. help defend against those digestive issues. take phillips' colon health probiotic caps daily with three types of good bacteria. 400 likes? wow! phillips. be good to your gut.
2:39 pm
2:40 pm
2:41 pm
welcome back to "dateline extra." i'm tamron hall. a courtroom in rochester, new york, saw a video of charlie tan's friend buying a weapon days before jim tan was found dead. did this prove charlie was a calculated killer? the defense was about to tell a very different story. dennis murphy picks up the story, "house of secrets."
2:42 pm
>> it was an upside-down world in this courthouse where you'd routinely expect lots of supporters for the victim, there were none. >> there was no one mourning the victim. >> apparently some people think this vicious father, the victim, deserved, got what was coming to him. >> oh, yeah. people that normally wouldn't advocate homicide who say if he did it then he did it and his father deserved it. >> but the accused? his girlfriend and friends crowded outside the courtroom every morning surrounding him protectively as he walked into court. he had all but a cheering section with pom-poms. >> i think it meant everything. i think having all the support made him feel so much better, so much stronger. i think he knew we were all there for them no matter what. >> his friend anna was on the witness list so she wasn't allowed to sit inside the courtroom until the very end. >> i went as much as i could between classes for the rest of
2:43 pm
it. >> how did he seem to you? >> some days were harder than others. some days he seemed good. >> charlie would sit in court while his defense would build a case with evidence that seemed to support domestic violence. played that tape of jean tan calling the cops two weeks before the shooting. >> defense attorney james nobles thought the 911 recording spoke volumes about that household. >> it was almost as if we were put in the hell that charlie lived in for a brief moment. and the hell that jean lived in for a brief moment. >> and they kept piling on. jim tan, continued the defense, wasn't just a bully at home. his employees testified about the abuse they, too, encountered in the workplace. >> every other person who worked with jim tan said he was miserable, saez he behaved like a child, he would bully people, said he was nasty at work.
2:44 pm
>> so a son defending his abused mother was a defense no-brainer strategy that seemed to require little assembly. the other defense lawyer, brian decarlis. >> i think most people that looked at this case said the only defense is self-defense or some hybrid of, you know, a battered child syndrome. >> but as the trial progressed, that wasn't the tack charlie's defense team planned. >> our strategy was to keep our strategic defense in our back pocket hid frn tden from the prosecution as long as we possibly could. >> what was the secret defense? they were going to agree with the prosecution on one point, that when jean called 911 to report her husband dead the murder was days old. >> shots. i heard it. >> that call is 100% fake. there's no question about it. >> not only was the mom lying to 911 about when the murder
2:45 pm
occurred, no, argued the defense, she was lying about something much bigger -- who the true killer was. the defense attorney saved his surprise for closing arguments. >> it was an unusual moment because certainly i knew there were many friend and supporters of jean tan in the courtroom and i was going to basically suggest to these jurors that she had pulled the trigger. >> jean tan, the mom, the wife, the true killer. the defense said the shotgun was in her hand. she pulled the trigger. she solved her own problem, not her son. that was the story the defense saifd for the 11th hour. >> not an easy thing to do in a packed courtroom. >> according to the defense, it was jean tan who had the motive, the motive to get rid of her bully husband, get the house, the business, the money. >> frankly, put motive in jean tan's category more so than charlie. >> and whatever little forensic evidence was at the scene was according to the defense inconclusive. >> there was a fingerprint on one of the shell casings and on
2:46 pm
the box of ammunition. so what that means is that at some point in time charlie could have loaded the gun but it still doesn't make him pulling the trig arer. >> as the defense saw it, the mom did it theory even explained that odd e-mail that charlie sent his frat brothers before the 911 call, the e-mail called "showtime." the e-mail implied that the story to come might not be the real one. it went on to say this -- >> the real truth will come out one day and you're going to know what really happened. one of the things that was always a question and always a concern of ours was, was charlie covering up for someone else. >> in court, assistant prosecutor bill gargen appeared caught off guard and stressed when he rose to make his closing argument. >> he addressed charlie direct hi. he said something to the effect, charlie, your lawyer is calling your moth err killer. he picked up the shotgun, moved quickly across the room and kind of approached the jury closely with it. you know, he's trying to make a point. a very passionate point. >> brandishing the murder weapon as a prop didn't sit well with the judge, who told the
2:47 pm
prosecutor to calm down. >> frankly, we knew that at that point we had done exactly what he wanted to do. we had totally taken him by surprise. >> after a week of testimony, the case went to the jury. out in the hallway, tv cameras dogged charlie's every move. hi'd been out on bond the entire time, but his freedom could be coming to an abrupt end. >> he knows his life is hanging in the balance. that's a tough thing for anybody to go through. >> but he had the unwavering support of team charlie. they all waited with charlie as the deliberations began, then spilled over into a second day. and then another. >> every day we'd show up to court being, like, oh, is it going to happen today. everyone was just super nervous, like on the edge of their seats the whole time. charlie was, i was. >> because if it goes in an adverse way for you and charlie, he's going to be led off and you wouldn't see him for a long, long time. >> yeah. it was hard to imagine that. >> jennifer mcguf was a juror sitting on the case. she walked us through the arguments as they deliberated. >> i'm not sure anybody felt bad
2:48 pm
for jim tan. he made a lot of enemies in life. but everybody did recognize that way he did was still a crime. >> both the prosecution and the defense had agreed that charlie's fingerprints were on the ammo. >> but did he actually pull the trigger or did he load the gun and give it to his mom and say here you go? that was the biggest point of contention. >> she was ready to vote guilty. the panel of 12 was far from unanimous. more day s passed. >> eight people guilty, four not guilty. >> a stalemate. an impasse seemed to be at hand. but still they talked. >> three of the jurors were crying really hard because they didn't want to think that he was guilty but they couldn't ignore it at that point. >> the local media asked prosecutor gill gargen for updates. >> i don't have experience with the outthis long, nor do my peers. >> on day eight after 50 hours of deliberations, the jurors told the judge they were
2:49 pm
deadlocked. the judge declared a mistrial. that didn't mean it was over for charlie by any stretch. >> no. it meant there was a long road ahead. >> charlie, a few words about how you're feeling right now? >> a long road with another trial, another set of court dates, another jury to go through the same set of facts, unless that wasn't what was going to happen at all. >> coming up -- an entire courtroom gets the shock of a lifetime. >> actually turning around in their seats, getting emotional. they see what's coming.
2:50 pm
2:51 pm
2:52 pm
welcome back to ""dateline" extra." i'm tamron hall. more than eight months after jim tan was shot to death inside his home, the trial for his son charlie was met with a hung jury.
2:53 pm
for everyone involved, it had been a long road, and there was a new trial pending. but there was another stunner in store. here what the conclusion of "house of secrets." >> the judge declares a mistrial. >> the charlie tan murder trial was big news in rochester. everyone was talking to the media. including the judge, who was running for state supreme court, and spoke to our affiliate, whec-tv. would you be presiding as judge again? >> i believe i would, because the case has been assigned to me. that's the normal protocol. >> the lawyers on both sides shared thought the about doing it all over again. >> it's a murder charge, not a petty larceny charge. with a hung jury where you walk away from it. we recognize the d.a.'s office isn't going to walk away from a homicide. >> from your perspective, how will it looked differently? >> better for me. that's how it will look
2:54 pm
differently. >> unfortunately for charlie's attorneys, they'd already played their surprise defense, mom really did it. there would be no shock value in a second trial. >> frankly, we've got to face this like a brand-new case starting today. hung injuries ar situation in which you which to reinvent the wheel. >> in november of 2015, weeks after the trial ended, both sides were back in the same court, before the same judge, who two days earlier had won the state supreme court seat. it was a routine hearing to talk retrial logistics. >> you were expecting to set a calendar date. >> we were figuring a january trial date. >> the reporter, john hand, who had been there for the entire trial, was in attendance too. >> there were a number of charlie's friends there. myself and roughly four or five other reporters who had covered the trial. the gang's all here. and the judge said we have to address the motion for dismissal by the defense, it's still pending. >> that's a common motion made by most defense attorneys when they ask a judge to throw out a case, especially due to a lack of evidence.
2:55 pm
>> you always do it. it's frankly malpractice not to. >> everyone thought this would be an order of business, quickly dispatched. and the judge would move on to set a new trial date. >> then he talks about the lack of evidence regarding the possession of the gun and charlie ever having the gun, lack of evidence that the fingerprints were found on the shells upstairs, but that didn't indicate that he'd ever shot it. i looked at another reporter who i know, and i said, what's going on here? >> charlie's lawyers had a glimmer about where this was going. >> i leaned into charlie's ear, and i told him something good is about to happen. >> the assembled press couldn't believe where the judge was heading. >> you're holding your breath, and you're going, he's about to dismiss this case, the biggest case we've had in years and years and years, a case that jurors deliberated on for 50 hours. a second degree murder case. >> the assistant prosecutor saw the train wreck ahead and wasn't at all pleased. he grabbed the mic. >> can i speak? and the judge very quickly said no, you may not. bill guarderen continued to speak.
2:56 pm
and the judge said i'll put new you in handcuffs. >> the judge told the district attorney? >> yeah. never seen that before. >> you're out of line here. >> and a court deputy walks up behind bill garderen, the prosecutor, not the defendant. >> he was interrupting. he was becoming unhinged. >> after the dramatics with the prosecutor, the judge did finish his thought. he threw out the entire case against charlie tan. a judicial ruling that meant that the case couldn't be re-prosecuted or retried. >> it was a big win for charlie tan. he was ecstatic. >> outside the courtroom, the media was waiting for charlie, the former defendant who hadn't yet spoken to reporters. >> now you'll talk to us, right? >> back up, back up, please, please. >> and before we got a chance to talk to him, his defense lawyer ushered him out down the hallway. >> what did you think? did you take all in? i'm not sure he took it all in. >> i'm not sure i took it all in at first. >> that this is over. >> it was super exciting. everyone was so happy. everyone was in tears.
2:57 pm
>> not quite everyone. assistant d.a. bill gargen was fuming. >> were you willing to get arrested over this. >> absolutely. i was more than willing to have handcuffs placed on me to argue my point. i didn't cross any lines. >> what recourse do you have? >> there's no appeal that i know of. >> so charlie tan is free. >> that's it. there is no appeal as of from this trial order of dismissal, because there has not been a verdict by the jury. >> the event didn't happen. >> correct. >> so in the people versus charlie tan, you had to cynically wonder whether the son's vocal supporters carried the day from outside the courtroom. >> talking about the division in the community, some think the golden ivy league boy was able to kill his father and get away with it. >> the question of what does affluence buy you. strange story, the whole thing.
2:58 pm
>> yeah. >> charlie's mother, according to the district attorney, will not be prosecuted. because there's no evidence to show she was responsible for the murder. >> i look at a weapon. she was a small woman. i don't know if she was capable of even being able to discharge that kind of weapon. >> so the only two people who know what happened in that house, charlie and his mother, have stayed mum. neither was ever interviewed by police. neither has spoken publicly about a case now closed but far from resolved. >> people will say this is a kid who killed his father and got off. and people will also say, no it isn't, they couldn't prove it. you've got two groups of people back there who said i don't care what happened. i'm never sending this 19-year-old cornell student to prison. >> the mom and brother are running the company jim tan started. as for charlie. is he okay? >> he seems okay. he's very positive. >> a great kid, a very popular kid who's done well and succeeded in all things he's been in. and it's time to move on. we welcome him back with open arms.
2:59 pm
>> but that didn't happen. the university let charlie know if he attempted to return to cornell, it was prepared to discipline him for violating the school's code of conduct. so charlie withdrew, and with that action lost the cornell version of the gold-plated ticket entrance to adult life. his former coach thinks charlie will regardless find a way to succeed. >> if he can get over the turmoil he came out of, i think he'll do fine. he's got everything going for him. >> in his young life, he'd pleased everybody. his coaches, teachers, devoted friends. outwardly happy. inwardly, who really knew? all one can say with any certainty are the known facts of a murky case. he got a friend to buy him a shotgun. said good-bye to the ivy league, and on a winter's day, drove home. >> that's all for this edition of ""dateline" extra." i'm tamron hall. thanks for watching.
3:00 pm
when i saw her, i lost concept of time. i reached in, pulled her out, and started screaming help. >> please! oh, my god! wake up! >> it was the worst seconds in my life. >> how was it possible? >> i would give anything if she were alive today. >> such a sweet young wife and mom. such a shattering death. >> i cried all night long. >> he was downstairs with the kids. she was upstairs in the bath

13 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on