NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A former BP drilling engineer isn't expected to testify at his trial on charges he deleted text messages about the company's response to its massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
A lawyer for Kurt Mix told a federal judge and Justice Department prosecutor that her client isn't one of three witnesses whom defense attorneys plan to call to testify once they begin presenting their case on Friday, according to a transcript of Wednesday's proceedings.
Prosecutors called their final witness on Wednesday, the eighth day of the trial. Jurors are expected to hear closing arguments from the attorneys on Monday before they start deliberating.
Mix pleaded not guilty to charges he deliberately deleted text messages to and from a supervisor and a BP contractor to stymie a grand jury's probe of the spill.
During the trial's opening statements, defense attorney Joan McPhee told jurors that Mix deleted the texts from his iPhone "for the most innocent of reasons" and didn't hide anything from the grand jury.
Out of the jury's earshot on Wednesday, McPhee told U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. and prosecutor Jennifer Saulino that she plans to call three witnesses on Friday: a BP consultant who worked on efforts to seal the well, a paralegal who works for Mix's defense lawyers and someone who worked with Mix after the spill.
"But are you telling me for certain that the defendant is not testifying?" Saulino asked McPhee, according to the transcript.
"We are going to put on three witnesses, as we said, and it's the three that I just identified," McPhee responded.
Mix, 52, of Katy, Texas, is charged with two counts of obstruction of justice. Each count of obstruction of justice carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Mix is one of four current or former BP employees charged with crimes related to the spill. His is the first case to be tried.
Mix was part of a team of experts who scrambled to seal BP's Macondo well after it blew out on April 20, 2010. The blowout triggered an explosion that killed 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. Millions of gallons of crude spilled into the Gulf before the well was capped.