Closed courtroom leaves questions unanswered in day 4 of Don Blankenship trial


The fourth day jury selection in former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship’s criminal trial continued into the evening Oct. 6, but what went on in the final two hours of the proceedings remains unclear to observers.

Voir dire carried on per usual — with potential jurors occupying one room while media watched, and occasionally listened, to the proceedings in a neighboring room — for most of the day Tuesday, until shortly after 5 p.m. when the television feed cut out just as Judge Irene Berger began reading a witness list to the room.

Court employees made attempts to fix the technical difficulties and Berger was made aware of the issue, but audio and video feeds never returned to the room, and the trial continued on in a closed room until around 7:15 p.m. as members of the press waited outside the courtroom doors.

Attorneys and other court officials emerged from the courtroom with few answers.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said Berger ruled on some of the pending motions that have been left unanswered in the case, but didn’t disclose specifics. He told those who were looking for answers to see the judge. Court officials said Berger was “not going to see anybody,” and court employees couldn’t make any comments on the proceedings.

Blankenship is charged with conspiring to break mine health and safety requirements in hundreds of violations at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine, which exploded in April 2010 and killed 29 miners.

If convicted, Blankenship faces up to three decades in prison.

Sarah Tincher (The State Journal)

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