SANTA FE – State prosecutors highlighted video footage of an influential Democratic New Mexico state senator wearing urine-stained shorts as he struggled with a field sobriety test, at the outset of a drunken driving trial in connection with a June car wreck.
A municipal police officer testified under oath that Sen. Richard Martinez of Ojo Caliente refused a breath test to determine his blood-alcohol level after his car slammed into the back of another vehicle at a stoplight in Española.
Police body cam video was played at the trial that shows Martinez responding to officers with halting speech, failing at repeated attempts to count backwards. An official in the video also acknowledges that Martinez received a blow to the head in the crash.
Martinez has pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated drunken driving and reckless driving. In opening statements, defense attorney David Foster highlighted that Martinez may have become dazed as his head struck his car windshield and predicted that evidence will not prove that he was intoxicated.
Foster also accused police of violating local procedures for body camera video by selectively taping Martinez and said that an officer failed to follow department mandates in administering a coordination test.
Martinez, a former magistrate and current chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, sat silently through the start of the non-jury trial in state district court.
A couple in the car hit by Martinez’s vehicle described an impact amid screeching tires that pushed their car into an intersection and the back and neck pain they have endured as a result of the wreck.
“It felt like my head was going to be detached from the base of my skull,” said Johnny Sisneros, the driver of the car that was rear-ended. Sisneros said he saw Martinez attempting to conceal his “tomato”-red face from recognition in the aftermath of the wreck.
Martinez is running for re-election in 2020, bucking calls for his resignation by Republican Party leaders. Prosecutors filed as trial evidence photographs of Martinez’s crumpled Mercedes SUV with a customized red “SEN 5” license plate — a reference to the senator’s northern legislative district.
Overruling objections by the defense, state District Court Judge Francis Mathew allowed prosecutors with the state attorney general’s office to play segments of police body camera video footage of Martinez speaking with police from the driver’s seat of his car in the immediate aftermath of the crash and then fumbling with a field sobriety test involving numbers and hand gestures from an ambulance stretcher.
Later at a hospital, Martinez reacted to his arrest with disbelief and the words, “Jesus Christ, are you really doing this?”
Special Assistant Attorney General Mark Probasco noted a dark stain on Martinez’s denim shorts and asked a police officer in court why it may be relevant.
“This is an indicator of someone who has been intoxicated, highly intoxicated, being unable to hold their urine,” Española police Officer Dustin Chavez told the court.
The testimony continued into the afternoon with the defense cross-examining the officer.