Blankenship Jury Still Deadlocked in Mine Blast Safety Case

  • West Virginia jurors end eighth day of deliberations
  • Blankenship accused of ignoring safety at site of 2010 blast

Donald Blankenship, center, makes his way to the Robert C. Byrd United States Courthouse on Dec. 1.

Photographer: Emily Harger/Bloomberg

Jurors at former Massey Energy Co. Chief Donald Blankenship’s criminal trial ended their eighth day of deliberations after telling the judge they remain deadlocked on charges the coal executive plotted to ignore safety rules before a 2010 mine explosion that killed 29.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger gave jurors special instructions designed to encourage them to set aside differences and reach a verdict. She told them to continue deliberations and consider the possibility of reaching a unanimous verdict on one or two of the three counts. Jurors ended the day without a verdict and will return Wednesday.

“You have a duty to reach a verdict,” Berger told jurors earlier on Tuesday, while also saying that they must not compromise their “conscience, scruples or personal beliefs.”

The trial in Charleston, West Virginia, caps a five-year effort by the U.S. to hold Blankenship accountable for safety violations at the Upper Big Branch mine, the site of the worst U.S. mining disaster in more than 30 years.

Blankenship is accused of conspiracy, making false statements to regulators and securities fraud for trying to prop up Massey’s stock price in the wake of the blast. Jurors have deliberated for about 40 hours over eight days.

The case is U.S. v. Blankenship, 14-cr-00244, U.S. District Court, Southern District of West Virginia (Charleston).

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