Sal and Mabel Mangano, owners of a nursing home where 35 patients died after Hurricane Katrina, were acquitted of 35 counts of negligent homicide and 24 counts of cruelty yesterday. The trial lasted three weeks, but the decision by the jury took only four hours.
The couple owned St. Rita’s Nursing home in St. Bernard Parish, outside of New Orleans. The nursing home was not evacuated as the hurricane approached and patients ending up drowning, some in their beds. The prosecution said that the owners should have listened to the hurricane warnings and evacuated.
The defense said that the brick building was a safe shelter and would have been fine if the levees hadn’t broken. Governor Kathleen Blanco was one of 40 prosecution witnesses, and she said that mandatory evacuations were up to local officials. St. Bernard Parish did not have a mandatory evacuation. Although this evidence was not allowed to be presented at the trial, 36 of 57 nursing homes involved in the hurricane did not evacuate.
One of the jurors said that they did consider the fact that Sal and Mabel Mangano were the only people in Louisiana who faced criminal charges directly because of the hurricane. She said that a lot of mistakes were made, yet only these two were being prosecuted.