November 27, 2015 Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH 2Comment

The criminal trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is in its eighth week. Ken Ward, Jr. of the Charleston Gazette continues to provide updates from the courtroom, but far fewer now that most of the action is behind closed doors where the jury is deliberating.

Ward explains that Blankenship’s attorneys have yet again asked “the judge to declare the jurors deadlocked and order a mistrial.” Judge Irene Berger disagreed. Ward writes:

“Noting that the trial was lengthy and involved complicated charges, Berger said that the jury’s deliberation time to date was not unreasonable. ‘I think the jury has been stellar. They’re continuing apparently to talk.’”

Some of the families of the Upper Big Branch (UBB) miners share the judge’s patience. Ward quotes the sister of Howard “Boone” Payne, 53, who was killed in the mine explosion:

“We’ve been waiting for five and a half years, if it takes another couple weeks, that’s all right. We want justice. We don’t care how long it takes.”

The sister of UBB coal miner Dean Jones, 50, told Ward:

“I continue to believe in the process. I would’ve liked to have been done before Thanksgiving, but there are plenty of things to be thankful for.”

The Charleston Gazette’s Ward also recapped the written notes sent by the jury to Judge Berger. Early in their deliberations they asked: “how long do we deliberate.”

The jurors met all day on Monday and Tuesday of the holiday week until Judge Irene Berger dismissed them. She told them:

“Have a good and restful weekend and happy Thanksgiving to all of you.”

The jurors are scheduled to resume their deliberations on Monday, November 30 at the federal courthouse in Charleston, WV.

2 thoughts on “Trial of Mining CEO Blankenship: Quotes from Week 8

  1. Did these men know conditions of the mine? Why would they keep working ? That would be their choice if I drive a car that is un safe I know it has issues am I not taking a chance if so my choice do I blame the makers for my choice or the sales person or the sales persons. Boss or CEO because of my choice

  2. Ms. Keffer,
    There is some powerful testimony from survivors of the Upper Big Branch disaster who explained why the men continued to work at the mine. Dean Jones, 50, for example, had a daughter with a serious, disabling illness and he needed to keep his job in order to maintain his health insurance to care for her. Based on my experience as part of the independent team that investigated the UBB disaster, some of the miners thought the hazards and management practices at the mine were “normal”—-it was all they knew. Other miners recognized the hazards, spoke up about them, but were fired or retaliation against. I’m not in a position to judge the decisions of the UBB miners or other workers who are killed on the job because their employers failed to provide a safe workplace.

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