John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Oct. 8, 2013, 10:13am

GALVESTON - The trial into an alleged toxic event in 2010 at what was then BP's Texas City refinery could be over any day now.

After hearing closing arguments from plaintiffs' attorney Tony Buzbee and defense attorneys Damond R. Mace and Kenneth Tekell, the jury of four men and eight women began the deliberation process the evening of Oct. 7.

Jurors must determine whether the first four plaintiffs of the so-called "test" trial are to be compensated for a reported six-week long chemical leak which followed the failure of the hydrogen compressor in the refinery's ultracracker unit on April 6, 2010. Thousands of residents and workers have filed suit over the emissions event. The outcome of this trial will establish how the other plaintiffs' cases will proceed.

Among the issues the jury must consider is whether the emission is a form of assault and if it was the result of negligence.

Buzbee argued Monday that BP deserves to be "punished" for being the "worst polluter in the U.S.", reemphasizing his charge that the defendant viewed profits as a priority.

Insisting he is not attacking the oil and gas industry, Buzbee labeled BP's actions as "an outline of bad corporate acting."

There is no other company as bad as BP, he stressed.

Mace fired back at the allegations, asserting "there are no unusual" levels of chemical exposure at the time of the release.

He countered that the levels were higher before and after the period in question, calling the reported symptoms the claimants suffered into question.

According to Mace, the four alleged victims lived in the Texas City-La Marque area for years without complaint, saying their case is not backed by scientific facts nor common sense.

Tekell followed his teammate uttering a phrase based on that made famous by late celebrity attorney Johnny Cochran in the O.J. Simpson murder trial: "If the pieces do not fit, you must acquit."

He said BP has credible "written" evidence to absolve it, insinuating Buzbee and his clients tossed the word "liar" many times to no avail.

Acknowledging his final statements could be his last as an attorney, the 75-year-old Tekell thanked presiding judge Lonnie Cox, jurors, BP's legal team and Buzbee.

"This is the best trial I have ever participated in," he said.

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