[StBernard] Potential jurors in nursing home deaths queried

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Mon Jul 30 22:21:27 EDT 2007

Potential jurors in nursing home deaths queried

Advocate staff writer
Published: Jul 29, 2007 - Page: 1B

ST. FRANCISVILLE - West Feliciana Parish residents picked for possible jury
duty in the high-profile case of a St. Bernard couple charged with negligent
homicide in the deaths of 35 nursing home residents after Hurricane Katrina
have been busy filling out a 15-page questionnaire.

The case against Salvador and Mabel Mangano, owners of St. Rita's nursing
home, was moved from St. Bernard Parish to West Feliciana because of the
expected difficulty in seating jurors in the hurricane-devastated parish.

The Manganos are facing 35 counts of negligent homicide and 24 counts of
cruelty to the infirm.

The 35 homicide counts represent people who died at the nursing home as it
flooded when Hurricane Katrina's surge swamped St. Bernard and the New
Orleans area Aug. 29, 2005. The couple originally was charged with 64 counts
of cruelty to the infirm, but prosecutors have cut the number to 24. The 24
remaining counts represent residents who survived.

The trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 13.

The case requires only six jurors, and the parties have agreed to select
three alternate jurors.

West Feliciana Clerk of Court Felicia Ann Hendl said her office pulled 300
potential jurors' names, but the Sheriff's Office was able to locate only
about 140 of those drawn for possible jury service. On Monday, presiding
Judge Jerome M. Winsberg ordered the clerk to send out 100 additional

Also on Monday, the opposing attorneys agreed to excuse eight prospective
jurors, including a sheriff's deputy and the wife of a sheriff's deputy.

Winsberg excused another 12, including West Feliciana's coroner, Dr. Chaille

All prospective jurors have been asked to turn in a questionnaire that asks,
among many things, their age, sex, race, marital status and work history.
The questionnaire asks whether the potential juror has any negative feelings
toward nursing homes, attorneys, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and whether they are familiar with the case
against the Manganos.

The questionnaire also asks prospective jurors to list their three favorite
television shows, whether they read books, what newspapers, magazines and
other publications they subscribe to, and whether they would describe
themselves as conservative, moderate or liberal.

It also asks them to list their hobbies and how often they would describe
themselves as a leader.

Hendl and Chief Civil Sheriff's Deputy Charlene Rachal said they didn't know
of another jury trial in the parish where questionnaires had been used.

The first batch of jury questionnaires was due Friday; the second batch is
due Friday, Aug. 3.

A court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in St. Francisville on a defense
motion requesting that Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti and his
office be removed from prosecuting the case.

The defense takes the position that Foti has an ethical conflict,
representing the state in a federal lawsuit asserting the criminal
negligence of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the failure of the levee
system after Hurricane Katrina, and in the Manganos' case, opposing any
witnesses who would testify that negligence by the Corps of Engineers caused
the flooding and deaths in St. Bernard Parish.

A second defense motion scheduled to be heard in court Wednesday asks the
court to admit into evidence several written statements made in the state's
lawsuit against the federal government faulting the Corps of Engineers in
the breakdown of the levee system.

The defense has subpoenaed several high-ranking government witnesses for the
trial, including Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Also subpoenaed are Johnny Bradberry,
secretary of the state Department of Transportation and Development; Jerry
Luke LeBlanc, commissioner of the Division of Administration; Fred Cerise,
secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals, and Dr. Jimmy
Guidry, medical director and state health officer for the Office of Public

The defense also wants to call retired Lt. Gen. Carl Strock of the Army
Corps of Engineers to testify about the design and construction of the
Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, which many authorities claim was primarily
responsible for the devastation in St. Bernard Parish.

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