NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The trial for two BP employees charged in the deadly 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig has been put on hold while a federal appeals court considers the dismissal of some of the manslaughter charges filed against them.
The case involves BP well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine. They were indicted on 22 manslaughter counts in connection with the deaths of 11 rig workers. Both have pleaded not guilty.
On Dec. 10, U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. ruled that charging them with 11 counts of “seaman’s manslaughter” exceeded the intended scope of the statute in connection with their job duties.
The U.S. Department of Justice appealed Duval’s decision to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Eleven involuntary manslaughter counts remain against the two. However, Duval suspended all remaining activity in the case pending the appeal on the other 11 charges.
“While it is clear that the statute affords the appellate court jurisdiction over the counts dismissed by this court, it is uncertain whether this court retains jurisdiction over the remaining counts,” he wrote.
The suspension postpones a scheduled June 12 trial date.
Prosecutors claim Kaluza and Vidrine botched a key safety test and disregarded abnormally high pressure readings that were glaring signs of trouble before the April 2010 blowout of BP’s Macondo well. The blowout triggered an explosion that killed the 11 workers and led to millions of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana.