Created: 12/20/2013 10:16 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4
The family of civil rights lawyer Mary Han wants to settle a lawsuit they filed against the city, but the city thinks it has a case strong enough to stand trial and refuses to settle.
Mary Han was a well-known civil rights attorney who died in 2010. Her death was quickly ruled a suicide but her friends and family have never believed it, and her family filed a lawsuit against the city. It pains them to think she's now known for how she died – and not how she lived.
Mary Han's friends describe her as a caring mother, a bulldog lawyer and a voice for the voiceless.
"She was a humanitarian," family friend Colin Baugh said. "She was a person of the people."
But her family fears that the longer a lawsuit they filed saying the Albuquerque Police Department mishandled her death scene goes on, the more likely it is that her death will be her lasting legacy.
"Do a Google search on Mary Han and the first thing that's going to come up unfortunately is this litigation," family attorney Rosario Vega-Lynn said. "It's not going to be her cases, it isn't going to be the causes she brought forth when she was here and engaged in her work."
Now, they're asking the city to settle the case. The family says they don't want to spend more taxpayer money, and they want to return the focus to what she did while she was alive.
City attorney David Tourek released a statement saying, "The City of Albuquerque is always willing to try and resolve cases that have merit reasonable. The Han case is a frivolous lawsuit. We do not settle frivolous lawsuits."
To that, the Han family points to a report Attorney General Gary King filed in August. It said APD did botch her death investigation, and ruled her death as a suicide too quickly.
"In her honor and in her memory, the family would like this to not happen to anyone else... and that's worth pursuing," Vega-Lynn said.
The Han family says if the city won't settle, they'll keep fighting in court. As of now, the case is set for trial late next year.