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Hearing in ex-BP engineer's obstruction case

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 13, 2014 at 5:32 pm •  Published: March 13, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The lawyer for a BP engineer found guilty of obstructing an investigation into the 2010 Gulf oil spill urged a judge to throw out the conviction Thursday, arguing the evidence was insufficient and the jury forewoman heard statements outside of the trial that influenced the panel's decision.

Kurt Mix's attorney Joan McPhee said the forewoman in Mix's December trial told a then-deadlocked jury that she had heard statements that affirmed her view that Mix was guilty. She overheard on an elevator that people in addition to Mix were facing trial.

Mix was on trial for deleting text messages in what prosecutors said was an attempt to hamper the government's criminal investigation of the spill.

Both sides agree that other jurors never heard the substance of the forewoman's information because they stopped her before she shared it. But McPhee argued the forewoman communicated to jurors that she had heard information that "affirmed her view that the correct verdict was guilty."

That was soon followed by the formerly deadlocked jury convicting Mix on one of two obstruction counts, she said.

Prosecutors said there's no evidence the forewoman's information made a difference in the deliberations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Saulino noted the forewoman voted to acquit Mix on the second count.

Prosecutors also argued the evidence regarding the juror was gathered illegally by defense attorneys who should not have interviewed jurors after the trial without court supervision.

McPhee said the defense team learned of the overheard conversation and its possible effect on the jury while making a legal and proper inquiry of jurors, aimed at getting "professional feedback" about the way the case was presented.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval said the defense team should have contacted the court rather than interview jurors.

"You made a mistake, Ms. McPhee," Duval said.

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