The trial of a former BP Plc engineer for criminal charges related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill off the coast of Louisiana began on Monday, 2 December, and will be the first trial in the case to go before a jury.
Former BP engineer Kurt Mix was arrested and charged with two counts of obstruction of justice in April 2012 for deleting text messages and voice mails allegedly related to BP’s attempt to run damage control at the time of the spill.
Mix has pleaded not guilty on all counts and jury selection for the trial began on Monday in the federal court in New Orleans.
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The spill from the Deep Horizon rig at BP deep-water Macondo well began on 20 April 2010, killing 11 people and spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 90 days in what was the biggest oil spill in US history.
Mix’s defense rests on his assertion that he had nothing to do with the Deep Water Horizon rig, while prosecutors allege that he willfully destroyed material evidence during the investigation. Mix denies intentionally destroying text messages and voice mails related to the incident.
In the opening statement on Monday, according to Forbes, prosecutors said that the deletion of a series of messages related by Mix represented the obstruction of justice related to the flow of oil from Macondo during the spill.
While Mix was the first person indicted in the case, two other BP figures—both Macondo well-site managers, Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, were also charged in November 2012 with involuntary manslaughter related to the 11 deaths. Also in November last year, David Rainey, former BP vice president of exploration for the Gulf of Mexico, was charged with providing false statements related to the size of the spill.
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All three have pleaded not guilty. Rainey will go on trial in March 2014, while the trials against Kaluza and Vidrine will begin in June.
Last year, BP agreed pay $4 billion to resolve the federal criminal probe.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com