Testimony ended Tuesday on the first impeachment charge against Gov. Evan Mecham, and senators began considering whether to vote on the first charge or consider all charges before deciding whether to remove Mecham from office.
The first of three broad charges alleges that Mecham, a first-term Republican, obstructed justice by trying to thwart an investigation into an alleged death threat."At this point, all evidence to be given on article one of the impeachment has been concluded," said Arizona Supreme Court Justice Frank X. Gordon, presiding at the trial.
The Senate's trial rules call for evidence on all three charges to be presented before a vote is taken, but Democratic Sen. Carolyn Walker moved to change the rules and vote on each charge immediately after the final argument on the individual count.
A two-thirds vote of the 30-member Senate would be required to change the rules. If Mecham was convicted on the first count the trial would end because he would no longer be governor, but final arguments on the count have not yet been made.
The last witness on the count was Mecham's lawyer, Fred Craft, who Tuesday morning seized the opportunity to give a lengthy speech in praise of Mecham's political philsophy. He called Mecham an "uncommon politician" who sought no personal aggrandizement and wanted only to improve the quality of life in Arizona.
The speech brought an objection from prosecutor Paul Eckstein and Craft was instructed to stick to answering questions.
Craft, in an abrupt role change, became a witness Monday and said Mecham "didn't know that he was obstructing anything" when he told the state's top lawman he would not cooperate with the attorney general's investigation of the alleged death threat.
Craft was subpoenaed by the Democratic minority leader, Sen. Alan Stephens. Craft was a Mecham insider when the threat against a witness before a grand jury investigating Mecham was reported to the governor on Nov. 13.
"I never heard `felony.' I never heard `death threat' and I certainly never heard `tampering with a grand jury witness,"' Craft said Monday. "I never heard those words, which would have been an alarm to me."
Later, in his cross-examination, Eckstein asked Craft whether he had ever advised the governor to resign.
"We had these meetings and no one could see a political escape route for the governor," Craft said. "No one was offering the governor any other political option than to go down with the ship."