New trial ordered for ex-BP engineer

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 13, 2014 at 2:30 am •  Published: June 12, 2014
Advertisement

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A new trial was ordered Thursday for a former BP engineer convicted of deleting text messages related to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval threw out Kurt Mix's obstruction-of-justice conviction, saying that remarks a jury forewoman overheard outside of the courtroom influenced the verdict.

Prosecutors said Mix, of Katy, Texas, deliberately deleted text messages to and from a supervisor and a BP contractor to stymie a grand jury's investigation of the spill.

The defense had argued that the forewoman in the December trial told a then-deadlocked jury that she had heard statements affirming her view that Mix was guilty. She overheard on an elevator that people in addition to Mix were facing trial.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed that other jurors never heard the substance of the forewoman's information because they stopped her before she shared it. But defense lawyer Joan McPhee argued the forewoman communicated to jurors that she had heard information that "affirmed her view that the correct verdict was guilty."

Prosecutors said there is no evidence the forewoman's information made a difference in the deliberations.

Duval said in his Thursday ruling that the forewoman "polluted the jury with her statements at a critical juncture — that is after the jury had deadlocked." He added that it was clear that the juror herself had failed to follow instructions that she consider only the evidence presented in court.

Mix, 52 at the time of his conviction, had been set for sentencing in August.

The subject matter of the deleted texts in question at trial was the amount of oil flowing from the blown-out well.

Mix's attorneys had argued there was ample evidence that Mix shared information about the flow rate throughout the government investigation and that his deletion of the single string of emails fell far short of what is needed for a conviction. They also said prosecutors failed to prove that Mix knew the information he deleted would be pertinent to a grand jury investigation — an investigation they said he did not know about and that had not yet even begun.

Continue reading this story on the...