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Charged with drunken driving, a Santa Clara deputy public defender put the system on trial. The system won. Following a six-day trial and after a day of deliberations, a jury on Tuesday found Deputy PD Mark Dames guilty of driving drunk last May. Dames contended the officer who stopped him was more interested in an arrest than in justice. In his day on the stand, Dames conceded downing two martinis and two beers with friends before driving home. But he testified that he drank fast and the alcohol hadn’t taken full effect at the time he was stopped for speeding on Interstate 280. The jury didn’t buy it. According to the jury foreman, it was hard to buy a lot of what Dames had to say. “[An acquittal] required us to have the utmost faith in the defendant’s credibility,” said jury foreman Gary Dorchak. “We just thought the slow, quiet, slurry speech pattern he used [while testifying] was designed to mimic a person with slurry speech. Other people saw him talk to his lawyer in a much more animated way.” The night of his arrest, Dames refused to answer questions or take a portable breath test. He said he didn’t cooperate with police because they are trained to gather evidence to prove guilt. Dames — who repeatedly shook his head “no” rather than answer questions — said the officer mocked him as a mime. “I have a constitutional right, and I am not willing to give it up,” Dames testified. “You should not be penalized or ostracized for taking advantage of it.” An hour after the arrest, Dames agreed to a blood test, which showed his blood-alcohol level was .08 — the legal limit. During closings, defense attorney Sam Polverino said many defense lawyers believe “you can’t get a fair trial anymore in a DUI case.” Deputy District Attorney Leigh Frazier argued that with the officer’s observations that Dames had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech, the blood test, and Dames’ own admissions, there was enough to convict. “Do not be confused with the defendant’s rhetoric or manipulation,” Frazier told jurors. “Despite the fact he is a sophisticated criminal defense attorney, he is no different that any other person who drinks and drives when he shouldn’t.” In an effort to bolster Dames’ case, Deputy Public Defender Benjamin Reese took the stand and produced a handwritten drink tally that he said he’d jotted down on a piece of scrap paper that night. According to Reese’s calculations, he had five shots of rum and Dames had four drinks. A toxicologist also testified for the defense that given the timeline Dames offered, his blood-alcohol level was probably only around .038.

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