Former Massey official Bill Ross, right, leaves the federal courthouse with his lawyer, Mike Gibson, for the lunch-time break in the Don Blankenship trial. Photo by Joel Ebert.
As jurors in the Don Blankenship trial took a break today for lunch, defense lawyer Bill Taylor was continuing his cross-examination of key government witness Bill Ross, a former Massey Energy insider who had urged Blankenship to make major safety reforms in the months prior to the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster (see here and here).
After spending the first half of the morning using Ross to go after the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, Taylor began to try to discredit some of the things Ross had to say about Massey’s safety practices. For example, Taylor got Ross to admit that, while he complained about under-staffing at Massey mines, Ross had never really studied any of the staffing levels at the mines and wasn’t even really aware of exactly how the mines were staffed.
Ross, though, kind of argued back at Taylor about some things, for example when Taylor asked if Ross had compared staffing levels and violation numbers at Massey mines to any non-Massey mines, to see if they were comparable, Ross said:
The numbers you are asking about were not relevant to what I was doing. I was trying to address Massey, and to reduce our violations.
Ross, a former MSHA inspector, also testified that he thought some of Massey’s complaints about MSHA taking too long to consider requests for new mining plans were justified, and said he had urged top Massey officials to complain to agency higher-ups in Arlington, Va., about those delays.
The jury is expected back at 1:20 p.m.