NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Defense attorneys on Wednesday asked for a nine-month delay in the trial of two BP supervisors charged with manslaughter in the deaths of 11 workers on the rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
Lawyers for Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine said in a court filing that they need more time to review millions of pages of documents that Justice Department prosecutors have produced in preparation for a trial currently scheduled to begin Jan. 14.
U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval Jr. didn’t immediately rule on their request. Prosecutors are opposed to a delay, according to the defense lawyers.
Kaluza and Vidrine both pleaded not guilty last year to charges they botched a key safety test and disregarded abnormally high pressure readings that were glaring signs of trouble before the blowout of BP’s Macondo well, which triggered the deadly explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.
“Factually, the issues are extraordinarily complex,” the defense lawyers wrote. “Experts still disagree about what happened on the Deepwater Horizon and in its paysands 18,000 feet below the surface.”
One batch of the documents provided by the Justice Department will exceed 15 million pages, which would fill more than 6,000 boxes stretching nearly one-and-a-half miles if they were lined up in a row, the defense attorneys said.
“The discovery in this case is extraordinary — and ongoing,” they wrote.
In May, the defense lawyers argued that the manslaughter counts must be dismissed because they don’t apply to conduct on a foreign-owned vessel operating outside U.S. territory. The Deepwater Horizon, which BP leased from Transocean Ltd., was about 48 miles from the Louisiana coast and operating under the flag of the Marshall Islands at the time of the blast.
They also argued that 11 of the 22 manslaughter counts don’t extend to their clients because they weren’t responsible for marine operations, maintenance or navigation of the rig. Duval hasn’t ruled on any of those arguments yet.
The defense lawyers said they will file additional pretrial motions, possibly including a request for Kaluza and Vidrine to be tried separately.