House Mistakenly Rests Case in Paxton Trial

Rusty Hardin
Lead attorney for the House Board of Managers Rusty Hardin | Image by The Texas Tribune

AUSTIN — The lead attorney for the House Board of Managers mistakenly rested their case late Wednesday, marking the end of a bumpy day for the prosecution.

Rusty Hardin, the legendary Houston attorney leading the case against Attorney General Ken Paxton, mistakenly told Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that the prosecution rested before the defense could cross the witness still sitting on the stand.

Blake Brickman, one of the ex-employees of the Office of Attorney General, had been the last witness called by the House, but he had a rocky time on the stand as successful objections by defense attorney Tony Buzbee limited portions of his testimony.

After pausing to confer with his co-counselors, Hardin walked up to the mic and announced that the prosecution rested. Shocked, Buzbee announced that he would be happy to let the House end its case without allowing him to cross Brickman, saying he could call him back during the defense case if needed.

Hardin admitted his mistake and said he would be more than happy to let Buzbee proceed with his cross-examination, but Buzbee retorted there were no take-backs in a trial. Lt. Gov. Patrick, the court’s presiding officer, concurred with Buzbee, meaning that the prosecution was done and the defense had the floor.

However, this was not the only confusing moment of the impeachment trial, as the day began with another mix-up from the House.

When the Senate convened, the Board of Managers attempted to call Laura Olsen, the alleged mistress of General Paxton and a key figure in the claims that the AG had participated in a bribery scheme. However, the House had not given the defense the required 24-hour notice of intent to call, and Olsen was blocked from taking the stand until the evening.

However, when the time came that Olsen could be called, Patrick announced that he had to hold a hearing outside the ears of the jury. Although the purpose of that hearing was not announced, Patrick explained upon returning that while Olsen was present in the capitol, she had been “deemed unavailable.”

The announcement caused several senators to express confusion, and Patrick reiterated the court’s decision and explained that the language was agreed upon by both the House and the defense teams.

Confusion again broke out following the accidental rest by Hardin as Buzbee announced that the defense would move for a directed verdict based on the lack of evidence and the failure of the House to meet the burden of proof. The House then stood up and claimed they had a cross-motion.

At this point, the Senate retreated to the back rooms to deliberate on the motions to potentially dismiss all or some of the impeachment articles.

After more than half an hour, the senators returned, and Patrick announced that, after discussions with the parties, the House and defense agreed to withdraw their motions. The defense then called what would be its first witness, but the House attorneys requested a conference at the bench.

After a few minutes of discussion, Patrick announced that the problems would need extended discussion and adjourned for the day.

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