Paxton Jury Staying Out Overnight
in Development that's Hard to Read
September 15, 2023
Thirty Texas Senate members failed to reach a verdict in Attorney General Ken Paxton's impeachment trial on Friday after deliberating throughout the entire afternoon before calling it a day and fanning out into the Capitol City night. The senators plan to regroup on Saturday morning to resume their consideration of the evidence that was presented over the course of eight days in the trial.
The elongated nature of the deliberations may seem surprising given the senators' history of knowing how they will vote long before the debate on major legislation that Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick deems as to be a priority. The senators could be divided on one or more of 16 articles of impeachment in a potential sign of concern for defense lawyers who appeared fully confident they would win with a verdict that could be unanimous.
But the Senate jurors may be moving more deliberately than expected to show that they're serious about a promise to consider the evidence as thoroughly and fairly as possible before the most important and potentially dangerous votes that they've cast up to now. The longer the jury remains out, the easier it could be for Senate Republicans to vote in Paxton's favor if they've created the appearance of wavering.
Patrick forced senators to give their cell phones to him before the deliberations got under way today. He instructed them to stay away from phones and computers for any reason than saying goodnight to children or a spouse. Patrick indicated that he might sequester the Senate jury in the event of an extended impasse.
Paxton appeared to have a head start when six Senate Republicans voted to dismiss the Texas House case on the trial's first day early last week. He only needs 10 senators on his side to survive in a chamber where 21 votes would be needed for his impeachment.
State Senator Angela Paxton - the AG's wife - doesn't have a vote at the trial. But Paxton's vote would be inconsequential if she had one unless she voted for her husband's impeachment. Her presence on the floor - however - makes it harder for the AG's foes to impeach him by raising the threshold for a two-thirds majority by one vote. With the attorney general's spouse as an ally in Patrick's Senate family, a vote to impeach could be even tougher with her there in their midst.
Houston attorney Tony Buzbee opened the trial's ninth day with a blistering review of a Texas House case that he portrayed as a ludicrous waste of taxpayer funds on an internal GOP power grab that prosecutors based on assumptions they failed to substantiate.
"What a joke," Buzbee said in an animated final argument. "What a joke this was."
Buzbee said the House built the case on "suppositions, mights, maybes (and) could have beens" with assumptions that prosecutors failed to substantiate with evidence sufficient enough to prove their case.
"Assumptions make an ass out of you and me." Buzbee recited a lesson that he said he learned as a kid.
Buzbee said the case sprouted from Speaker Dade Phelan's bruised ego after Paxton accused him of being inebriated in the dais while presiding over the House one night in May. "Dade Phelan got his feelings hurt," Buzbee contended.
Buzbee took shots at the Texans for Lawsuit Reform and the Bush family as well as part of a conspiracy he's sought to weave during the trial. "The Bush era in Texas ended today."
GOP State Rep. Jeff Leach of Allen sought to give the prosecution a personal touch during a final summation for the House managers when he told Senate jurors about the friendship he used to have with the official who he's trying to impeach. Leach described Paxton as "my dear friend - a political mentor - a brother in Christ - and once trusted adviser" who ensured that he had an open door at the state lawyer's office after his initial election to the statewide post in 2014.
"Over the years Ken and I spent hours on the phone together," Leach said. "We texted. We called."
But Leach said he grew "increasingly concerned" when the calls from Paxton stopped and he no longer had the access that he'd enjoyed in the past.
more to come ...