Defence lawyers for a former BP drilling engineer, Kurt Mix, who was convicted by a federal jury of obstructing an investigation into the company’s 2010 Gulf oil spill, claimed that jurors engaged in misconduct that warrants a new trial.
The attorneys of the 52-year-old engineer from Katy, Texask, asked the US District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr to throw out the 18 December judgement given by the jury.
Mix tried to destroy evidence when he deleted a number of text messages to and from a supervisor and a contractor of BP.
Mix’s lawyers noted that the jurors were interviewed by them following the verdict.
The lawyers learned that during their deliberations, one juror told the others about overhearing a conversation in a courthouse elevator, making that juror feel more comfortable about convicting Mix.
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The lawyers also said, during conversations outside the deliberation room, some jurors engaged in ‘horse trading’ that would ensure a split verdict.
Mix, who faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, received ten separate notices from the company during his tenure that he was obligated to preserve all of his records that are related to the spill.
Based on the jury’s conclusions it was believed that he broke the law in October 2010 when he deleted a string of text messages to and from his supervisor, Jonathan Sprague.
Mix was the first of four current or former BP employees charged with spill-related crimes and the first of them to be tried.
The jury deliberated for more than nine hours over three days, before reaching the verdict on Mix’s case.
Image: smoke and fire emerge as oil burns during a controlled fire in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: courtesy of Justin Stumberg.