Notices have gone out for potential jurors to
hear the case against the owners of a nursing home where 35
patients died in flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina.
The notices were sent to residents of West Feliciana Parish
following an earlier decision to move the highly publicized trial
to St. Francisville. At a hearing on Monday, lawyers in the case
will talk about how the jury will be picked.
The trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 13.
"That's one of a number of pretrial issues we'll be
discussing," said James Cobb, attorney for Salvador and Mabel
Mangano, the couple who own St. Rita Nursing Home in St. Bernard
Parish. "It should be a busy day."
The Manganos each face 35 counts of negligent homicide. Each
count carries up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Monday's hearing will be the first held in St. Francisville,
about 120 miles northwest of St. Bernard Parish. The move was
decided on after defense lawyers and the judge agreed that
assembling a jury would be difficult in the suburban New Orleans
parish where Katrina's flooding devastated homes and businesses and
drove out most of the population.
State District Judge Jerome Winsberg has held a series of
hearings aimed at streamlining the upcoming trial, which is
expected to be lengthy.
The state attorney general's office is prosecuting the case.
Attorney General Charles Foti has said the Manganos should have
taken steps to evacuate St. Rita's patients before flood waters
rose due to Katrina, which struck on Aug. 29, 2005.
Defense lawyers said the nursing home had never flooded before
Katrina and that the Manganos' hurricane plan - keeping frail
residents in place with food, water and generators rather than
risking their lives by moving them - was responsible. No one would
have died had levees held after the storm, the defense contends.