At the trial involving ex-Massey Energy Chief Executive Officer Don Blankenship, the defense led by Blankenship’s lead attorney Bill Taylor stood before the court on Monday morning and said, “The defense rests,” without calling a single witness. This reportedly happened just after the prosecution closed its case.
According to a report by the Associated Press published by AM 860, the defense decided to rest after jurors heard testimony from as much as 27 witnesses in a span of roughly five weeks. Following this, U.S. District Judge Irene Berger had dismissed the jury until 9 a.m. on Tuesday while lawyers have been asked to report back to court on Monday afternoon to discuss instructions to the jury. The trial had begun last October 1.
Blankenship is being accused of prioritizing money over safety. He is charged with conspiring to break safety laws West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch Mine as well as lying to financial regulators and investors about company safety. The southern West Virginia mine exploded back in 2010 and killed 29 men. The Guardian referred to this incident as the worst coal mind disaster in the U.S. in decades.
Prosecutors had managed to obtain phone calls secretly recorded in Blankenship’s Massey office. In one of the calls, Blankenship said that a certain internal safety memo must be kept confidential as it would be terrible if it showed up in legal investigations should a mining incident occur.
Should he be found guilty, Blankenship may spend up to 30 years in prison.