Jurors in the criminal trial of Don Blankenship took their daily lunch break today with FBI Special Agent Jim Lafferty still on the stand, providing summary testimony through questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby.
Ruby and Lafferty showed jurors two large charts aimed at illustrating the frequent inattention at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine to cleaning up spilled coal and coal dust and to properly rock-dusting conveyor belt entries of the mine to prevent fires and explosions.
Based on Lafferty’s review of the fireboss books from Upper Big Branch (see here, here and here), the charts showed boxes representing particular shifts and particular conveyor belts, with color coding to indicate whether, for example, mine examiners had found a need for rock-dusting. The chart was full of red boxes, which indicated that company examiners frequently found areas that needed rock dusted, but did not note on their reports that the corrective actions had been completed. Of the 787 boxes that were marked as needing rock dusted, the work was reported to have been completed only 102 times, Lafferty told jurors.
Also this morning, Lafferty testified that he reviewed the 59 “unwarrantable failure” orders that were issued at Upper Big Branch and found that all but three of them were marked by MSHA inspectors as having involved “high negligence.” The other three were marked as having been “reckless,” Lafferty testified.
The jury returns at 1:30 p.m.