NEW ORLEANS – Federal prosecutors are asking a judge for additional time to decide whether they should appeal an order throwing out the conviction of a former BP engineer in connection with the 2010 Gulf oil spill investigation.
U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval ruled last week that Kurt Mix was entitled to a new trial on an obstruction-of-justice charge because of misconduct by a juror in his 2013 trial.
Prosecutors said Tuesday that deciding whether to appeal Duval’s order will take time and will require involvement of top Justice Department officials. They asked for an exclusion from federal speedy-trial requirements. The Speedy Trial Act calls for a trial within 70 days of a new trial being ordered but also contains provisions for delays.
Prosecutors accused Mix of deleting text messages to stymie a grand jury investigation.
Prosecutors said in their motion that they consulted with defence attorneys, who did not object to the delay.
Mix’s conviction was thrown out and a new trial was ordered after the defence 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 had overheard on an elevator that people in addition to Mix were facing trial.
Prosecutors and defence lawyers agreed that other jurors never heard the substance of the forewoman’s information because they stopped her before she shared it. But the defence argued that a new trial was warranted.
Duval agreed, saying in his order that the forewoman “polluted the jury with her statements at a critical juncture — that is after the jury had deadlocked.”
The deleted text messages at issue in the trial dealt with the amount of oil flowing from BP’s Macondo well site after the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which killed 11 workers.