Ropes & Gray Client Granted New Trial in Deepwater Horizon Case
On June 12, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana granted a new trial for Ropes & Gray client Kurt Mix. In May 2012, the Department of Justice charged Mr. Mix, a former BP drilling engineer, with two counts of felony obstruction of justice. The indictment accused Mr. Mix of deleting two text message strings and three voicemails from his iPhone in order to obstruct a federal grand jury’s investigation of the Deepwater Horizon incident.
After a two-week trial, a jury acquitted Mr. Mix on one count but convicted him of the other count. Ropes & Gray filed a number of post-trial motions seeking to reverse the jury’s verdict. One of those motions was based on the revelation that, during the jury’s deliberations, the jury’s foreperson told her fellow jurors that she was convinced of Mr. Mix’s guilt because of something she had overheard in the courthouse’s public elevator a few days earlier. Although she did not disclose the content of what she overheard – that there would be other trials related to the oil spill – her conduct in informing her fellow jurors that she had overheard information that affirmed her vote tainted the deliberation process.
As the district court found, the jury foreperson’s misconduct was “extreme,” “polluted the jury” and “place[d] the very sanctity of the impartial nature of Mix’s jury at issue.” The District Court concluded:
Mr. Mix was not tried by an impartial jury; [the jury] did not render its verdict based solely on the evidence and arguments presented in court; there were outside irrelevant sources at play that likely affected the jury’s deliberations and the verdict, and as result, Mr. Mix is entitled to a new trial.
Litigation partners Joan McPhee, Michael McGovern and Aaron Katz represented Mr. Mix at trial.