Jury selection starts in Katrina case

Aug. 13, 2007 at 10:06 PM
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ST. FRANCISVILLE, La., Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Jury selection started Monday for the trial of a New Orleans couple who own the nursing home where 35 people died during Hurricane Katrina.

Mabel and Sal Mangano, owners of St. Rita's nursing home in St. Bernard Parish, face 35 counts of negligent homicide for failing to ensure the safety of the elderly residents who drowned in the 2005 storm.

Also Monday, Judge Jerome Winsberg ruled Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco must testify in person if called as a witness by attorneys representing the Manganos, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reported. The ruling was a setback for the state attorney general's office, which is handling the prosecution and last week tried to maneuver so the governor wouldn't have to testify personally and also to limit any questioning.

Uma Subramanian of the state Department of Justice noted it would be the first time a Louisiana governor would be compelled to testify against his or her will.

But defense attorney Jim Cobb countered that the governor is "captain of the ship of state."

"That ship foundered during Katrina and we want to know what course she set and what she did," Cobb said.

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