Associated Press via Nola.com
Just shy of two years since Hurricane Katrina roared through southeast Louisiana, a jury began hearing allegations against the only people to be indicted for any of the 1,400 deaths directly connected with the storm.
Salvador and Mabel Mangano, the husband-and-wife owners of St. Rita's Nursing Home in St. Bernard Parish, are charged with 35 counts of negligent homicide in the deaths of patients. As attorneys prepared for opening arguments, a clerk read the indictment, mentioning each victim by name while some spectators cried softly. Supporters of the Manganos, as well as relatives of some of the victims, were in the courtroom.
Even as the jury was settling in, questions remained as to who would testify in the case. The defense has subpoenaed Gov. Kathleen Blanco to testify about the state's emergency plans, but her office was appealing an order that she appear; an attorney for three New Orleans television stations was appealing Judge Jerome Winsberg's ruling that the prosecution could call TV meteorologists to testify about what the stations aired in the three days before Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005.
Prosecutors are expected to outline a scenario in which the Manganos ignored urgent warnings to evacuate, which, the state contends, led directly to the deaths and the suffering of the nursing home residents who survived.
Defense attorneys paint a different scene, saying the couple was so confident of the sturdiness of their nursing home that they invited their family and the families of their staff to ride out the storm there. FULL STORY