A former BP drilling engineer convicted of destroying evidence about the size of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill was granted a new trial Thursday because of juror misconduct.
Kurt Mix was found guilty by a federal jury in December last year of one count of obstruction of justice.
He was charged with deleting text messages and voicemails concerning BP’s response to the 2010 oil spill following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform.
U.S. District Judge Stanwood R. Duval Jr. in New Orleans threw out the conviction, finding that misconduct by a juror denied Mix a fair trial by an impartial jury.
Judge Duval said the jury was likely influenced by statements one juror heard outside the courtroom, in an elevator in the courthouse building. The juror repeated the remarks in the jury room.
The juror told the other panel members — who were deadlocked in their deliberations at the time — that the remarks convinced her to affirm her guilty vote.
The judge said the jury reached a verdict two hours later.
Mix, 52, of Katy, Texas was found guilty of deleting 300 text messages from his phone between himself and his BP supervisor.
He’s one of four former or current BP employees charged with crimes related to the United States’ worst offshore oil spill.
His case was the first to go to trial.
BP well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine have pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges.
Former BP executive David Rainey is charged with concealing information from Congress about the amount of oil spewing from the well.
The blowout of BP’s Macondo well off the coast of Louisiana in April 2010 killed 11 workers.
BP pleaded guilty in 2012 to 14 offenses — including 11 felony counts of seaman manslaughter, single misdemeanors under the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and a felony count for obstruction of Congress by misrepresenting the size of the spill.
The company agreed to pay $4 billion to resolve the federal criminal charges.
Mix has denied intentionally destroying evidence.
If convicted in a new trial, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.