Ken Paxton
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Photo credit: Texas Attorney General / Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what you have been accused of or how much evidence there is because it all comes down to a jury's decision.

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The acquittal of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) in the state Senate on Saturday offered a valuable lesson ahead of what will be a year of high-stakes trials: In the end, it doesn’t really matter what you have been accused of or how much evidence there is because it all comes down to a jury’s decision.

In this case, there wasn’t ever all that much doubt over Paxton’s fate — even after about 70 percent of House Republicans had voted to impeach him in May for offenses ranging from bribery to corruption.

But it was always going to be a different story in the Senate, and not just because that is where Paxton’s wife serves. More importantly, the upper chamber is much more aligned with the MAGA-wing of the GOP and wasn’t going to convict one of their own.

Therefore, it always seemed unrealistic that enough Republican senators would break ranks to achieve the required two-thirds majority.

At the heart of the impeachment trial were accusations that Paxton abused his office by helping a wealthy friend in various ways, for example by investigating and harassing his adversaries or obtaining confidential records. In return, that friend allegedly paid for renovations to Paxton’s home and helped him cover up an affair with a former Senate aide.

In the end, the attorney general’s ideological allies gave him a pass for all of the offenses, and that didn’t sit well with the chamber’s Democrats.

State Senator Roland Gutierrez (D) said the acquittal is a symptom of a “broken and corrupt system,” adding that “hard-right Republicans decided today that it’s okay to take bribes and lie to the public, as long as you are the Republican Attorney General of Texas.”

Donald Trump must be smiling somewhere.

Not only because a high-profile supporter escaped accountability but also because the Senate trial highlights the power that jurors have in the US judicial system.

Keeping in mind how polarizing Trump is and how much of a cult following he has, it is entirely conceivable that, in any of his upcoming four trials, a single juror could simply ignore all evidence presented against the former president and vote to acquit him.

In that case, just as in this one, it then won’t matter how much evidence of wrongdoing there is. So far, this is a possibility that is largely ignored when experts discuss the four upcoming Trump trials.

As for Paxton, he can now return to his job. However, his legal troubles are not yet over.

The attorney general still faces a trial for securities fraud that he allegedly committed several years ago.

More importantly, Paxton is also the subject of a federal investigation related to the behavior that he was accused of in connection with the impeachment trial.

A grand jury is currently deciding whether to charge Paxton. If it does, then the attorney general will likely face a jury that is a lot less biased than the one that acquitted him today.

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