Coal Tattoo

Morning update: Lafferty cross-examination continues

After taking Veterans Day off, the criminal trial of Don Blankenship continued this morning with cross-examining continuing of Federal Bureau of Investigations Special Agent Jim Lafferty.

Defense attorney James Walls questioned Lafferty about the amount of information Blankenship received about safety violations at Upper Big Branch and other Massey mines.

Lafferty conceded that daily violation reports sent to Blankenship did not contain all of the details from the actual citations and orders issued by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration – something Lafferty had already testified to during direct examination.

Walls went through a collection of MSHA citations and daily reports to Blankenship to illustrate for jurors the differences between the two.

The reports, for example, list the section of federal safety rules violated and a type of violation, such as roof control or ventilation. The reports to Blankenship also specified the estimated penalty for each violation.

The MSHA citations themselves include longer descriptions from agency inspectors explaining exactly how roof control or ventilation rules were violated.

Also this morning, Walls moved forward with the defense’s plan to try to play for jurors the defense’s choices from the 1,600 of Blankenship’s phone calls that the former CEO recorded.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby objected that the calls were hearsay. U.S. District Judge Irene Berger then held a lengthy private conference with lawyers from both sides – and with Blankenship, who stood at the judge’s bench with the attorneys. After the bench conference ended, Berger gave the jury its morning break.