orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

State News

March 21, 2013

Claims against BP contractors dismissed at trial

(Continued)

NEW ORLEANS —

After Barbier's rulings, the trial's fourth week continued with more testimony by witnesses for Transocean, whose chief had executive testified Tuesday. BP and Halliburton also will call their own witnesses later in the proceedings.

Barbier has heard testimony by more than a dozen witnesses called by the Justice Department and private attorneys for Gulf Coast residents and businesses. The plaintiffs' lawyers rested Wednesday after their last witness, a former Halliburton laboratory manager, finished testifying.

Earlier Wednesday, well control expert Calvin Barnhill testified he didn't see any evidence that rig workers sacrificed safety in a rush to complete a job that was behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget.

Transocean president and CEO Steven Newman had testified Tuesday that he believes his company's employees on the rig should have done more to detect signs of trouble before the blowout. However, he said the Swiss-based drilling company didn't identify any internal "management failures" that led to the disaster.

Also on Wednesday, a federal grand jury handed up an indictment containing new allegations against former BP engineer Kurt Mix.

Mix was charged last year with deleting text messages about the company's response to the Gulf oil spill. Wednesday's new indictment accuses him of also deleting about 40 voicemails from a supervisor and roughly 15 voicemails from a BP contractor.

Mix, of Katy, Texas, pleaded not guilty in May to two counts of obstruction of justice after he was charged with deliberately deleting more than 200 text messages to and from the supervisor and more than 100 to and from the contractor. Mix doesn't face any new counts in the superseding indictment.

Prosecutors claim he deleted the messages to prevent them from being used in a grand jury's probe of the spill.

Mix's attorney didn't immediately respond to a call and email seeking comment.

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