One year for 29 lives!

May 18, 2016

From the May-June 2016 issue of News & Letters

Detroit—In one of the most blatant miscarriages of justice, Don Blankenship—the Chief Executive of Massey Coal when Massey’s Big Branch Mine in West Virginia exploded, killing 29 miners—received only one year in prison. The evidence against him was overwhelming, indicating his guilt in the deaths and clearly revealing that Blankenship had fostered a reign of terror in his coal mines in West Virginia. He used the color black as a sign of intimidation, using a black car, dressing in black clothing and travelling in a black helicopter to intimidate the miners and their families

Blankenship kept two sets of books to list the mine safety infractions in inspectors’ reports. One set of books, for the company’s use, had the actual figures on safety hazards; the other set was scrubbed for federal coal mine inspectors to look at. All of this and more was revealed in the testimony. The defense attorneys, however, were able to limit Blackenship’s penalty to simply a minor safety violation, which reduced the punishment that Blankenship could have been exposed to.

Survivors of the miners who died in the coal explosion reacted in outrage. The families of the dead miners—and all those who care about justice—will remember this miscarriage of justice.

—Andy Phillips

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