The trial of Sal and Mabel Mangano over 35 drownings in their New Orleans-area nursing home after Hurricane Katrina is due to start next Monday, almost two years after the event. USA Today says the Manganos’ defense attorneys, in an effort to deflect blame for the deaths at St. Rita’s, will call many government officials as witnesses, including Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco. The defense argues that the nursing home residents – strapped in their beds, wailing for help – died because of the catastrophic levee failure. No evaluation of responsibility “can be made without evidence that the state and local authorities failed their duties,” the defense argues.
“Nobody has ever been put on trial for how they responded to Katrina,” says publisher Clancy DuBos of the Gambit Weekly, an alternative newspaper. “Here you have the state putting on a husband and wife, operators of a nursing home. Their attorneys, in turn, will be putting the state on trial. We’ll see who the jurors think behaved more rationally, more honorably.” It is a common defense tactic to “make the case bigger than the facts,” says Dane Ciolino, a professor of criminal law at Loyola University Law School in New Orleans.