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Blankenship Trial Starts First Full Week

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The latest developments in the federal trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. All times are local:

7:10 p.m.

The third day of jury selection wrapped Monday evening just before 5 p.m. in a Charleston federal courtroom. 

According to court documents, 13 jurors were excused from the jury pool. There is no indication in the document how many total jurors were questioned or how many were chosen to remain in the jury pool. 

In a court transcript, Judge Irene Berger said last week she was looking for 35 jurors for the smaller pool from the larger pool of 300 jurors who received questionnaires earlier this year.

From that 35, attorneys from both sides will be able to disqualify a number of jurors without question.  The judge is looking for a jury of 12 with 2-3 alternates.

1:10 p.m.

A memo in the case against ex-Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship shows his former top safety official pinpointed problems with the company's safety efforts.

The June 2009 document filed in Charleston federal court this weekend includes the guidance from former Massey safety chief Bill Ross.

It says Massey mines were understaffed, workers were too inexperienced to recognize violations and the company was dishonest with government agencies.

The document says some Massey mines were "plainly cheating" on coal dust sampling, and the company's attitude was "We will run until we get caught, then we will fix it."

The memo was filed by prosecutors after Blankenship's attorneys contended that Ross' potential testimony shouldn't be mentioned in the government's opening arguments.

10:15 a.m.

Jury selection has resumed for the federal trial of former Massey Energy Don Blankenship.

Potential jurors returned to the federal courthouse in Charleston on Monday morning for the third day of jury selection. U.S. District Judge Irene Berger is questioning all prospective jurors with her microphone off.

The public, including reporters, are watching the proceedings from a live closed-circuit television feed from another room. They can't hear questions and responses.

 

8:45 a.m.

Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship has arrived at the U.S. District Court in Charleston for the third day of jury selection at his federal trial.

Forty-two prospective jurors were excused on Thursday and 16 were dismissed on Friday.

The 65-year-old Blankenship is charged with conspiring to break mine safety laws and lying to financial regulators about safety practices at the Upper Big Branch mine in southern West Virginia. The mine exploded in 2010, killing 29 miners.

If convicted of all the charges, Blankenship faces up to three decades in prison.


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