This post is from Joel Ebert, who is covering the Don Blankenship trial with Ken Ward Jr.
There’s a new 18-page motion from Blankenship’s defense attorneys to exclude selective excerpts from audiotapes that have yet to be introduced.
You can read the entire filing here.
Essentially the defense is arguing that several audio recordings the government plans to use are incomplete or irrelevant to the charges against Blankenship.
One recording – referred to as number 589 – took place on November 6, 2009 and features Blankenship complaining to Performance Coal Co. President Chris Blanchard about how he can’t hear him on the phone.
Here’s a few excerpts of their exchange, according to the transcript of the recording – which is provided in the defense’s motion. The following is from a transcript of the phone call provided by the government:
Blankenship: Am I on speaker?
Blanchard: No, sir.
Blankenship: Hmm, having trouble hearing you.
Blankenship: You reckon when you’re talking to your people at the mines that they can’t hear you any better than I could and maybe they’re afraid to tell you they can’t hear you and that’s the reason they don’t do what you tell ’em?”
Blanchard: Sir, I, that’s possible.
Blanchard: It would be bad, but it’s possible.
Blankenship: My guess is you hold the phone under your chin instead of in front of your mouth.
Blanchard: I was, sir.
Blankenship: Okay. Bad habit.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby mentioned the exchange between the two men during his opening statement on the first day of the trial.
In their motion, the defense is arguing that because the exchanges are not relevant to the superseding indictment, they should not be allowed to be used in the trial.
The defense also provides a transcript of the phone conversation, which is longer than the one the government had.
The extra excerpts from the transcript made by the defense basically just contains a conversation about a roof falling. Blankenship asks Blanchard about what kinds of bolts were used.
The defense makes the same argument (that the recordings are irrelevant to the indictment) for two other recordings – which have been called 1260 and 1535A.
1260 was made on January 23, 2009 and was once again a phone call between Blankenship and Blanchard.
During the call, the defense notes, Blankenship “expresses his displeasure” that Blanchard failed to take actions on something the CEO requested.
1535A was recorded on April 2, 2009 and was a conference call between Blankenship, Blanchard and Massey vice president Chris Adkins.
The defense describes the exchange, saying it “concerns Mr. Blanchard’s communication of employee benefits to his workforce.”
The defense argues that employee benefits have no relevance to the indictment and should therefore any recordings should be thrown out.
In their motion, the defense notes that if the recordings are allowed into evidence, then the government should have to include the additional portions of the recordings as well.
One of the issues here is that U.S. District Judge Irene Berger issued a ruling on the motions in limine that prohibits the defense from using certain types of phone calls in their own case.