Ashton Marra

Assistant News Director, Statehouse Reporter

Ashton Marra is the Assistant News Director at West Virginia Public Broadcasting, coordinating the coverage of her fellow reporters under Interim News Director Jesse Wright, and serves as the producer for the morning news magazine West Virginia Morning. She also serves as the fill in host of the program.

Ashton covers the Capitol for West Virginia Public Broadcasting and can be heard weekdays on West Virginia Morning with the latest statehouse news, from politics to policy and everything in between. You can keep up with her work on social media through Twitter and tumblr.

During the legislative session, Ashton focuses on the state Senate, bringing daily reports from the inner-workings of the state’s upper house on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s nightly television show The Legislature Today.  She also hosts the show, interviewing lawmakers, lobbyists and leading a roundtable discussion focused on the top stories of the week with her colleagues from the Capitol press corps.

Ashton served as the producer and host of Viewpoint, West Virginia Public Broadcasting's 10-week political talk show in the fall of 2014. The weekly, hour-long program included in-depth interviews with candidates, analysis and a reporter roundtable leading up to the 2014 general election. 

Ashton has most recently received national attention for her coverage of the January 9, 2014, chemical spill in Charleston. Her work was featured on NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered, WBUR's Here & Now, KCRW's To The Point, the PBS NewsHour and Al Jazeera America. She was named the 2014 Associated Press "Outstanding Reporter of the Virginias."

Ashton came to WVPBS in October of 2012 from ABC News’ morning program Good Morning America where she worked as a production associate. Ashton produced pieces for the broadcast, including the first identified victim of the Aurora, CO, movie theater shooting and the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, as well as multiple entertainment news stories.

Before her time at GMA, Ashton worked as an intern on ABC’s news assignment desk, helping to organize coverage of major news stories like the Trayvon Martin case, the Jerry Sandusky trial and the 2012 Presidential election. She also spent 18 months as a weekend reporter for WDTV based in her hometown of Clarksburg, WV, breaking the story of missing Lewis County toddler Aliayah Lunsford. Ashton’s work from that story was featured on HLN’s Nancy Grace in October of 2011.

Ashton graduated summa cum laude from West Virginia University in May of 2012, where she was named WVU’s Reporter of the Year. She covered government for the P.I. Reed School of Journalism’s bi-weekly newscast WVU News and also served a semester as the WVPBS bureau reporter.

 

Ways to Connect

Kara Lofton / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Jurors have begun deliberations in the trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Ashton Marra and Charleston attorney Mike Hissam detail the closing arguments in the case with host Beth Vorhees in this special episode of the podcast recorded as a part of West Virginia Public Broadcasting's morning news show, West Virginia Morning.

Jeff Pierson

Lead defense attorney Bill Taylor said the government has provided no solid evidence to back its claim that former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship conspired to violate federal mine safety laws and lied about his company's safety records to investors and securities officials.

"Paper is what the government has brought you," Taylor said in the first half of his closing argument Tuesday morning. "No witnesses, no proof."

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

In his closing argument Tuesday morning, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin called former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship an "outlaw" who ran a massive criminal conspiracy at the company's Upper Big Branch mine. 

An April 2010 explosion at that mine killed 29 men and sparked a federal investigation into Massey and Blankenship himself. 

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Defense attorneys chose to rest their case Monday morning without calling a single witness to aid in their defense of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

In a special edition of the podcast "Blankenship on Trial," host Scott Finn discusses the surprising turn of events with reporter Ashton Marra and Charleston attorney Mike Hissam. 

Don Blankenship
Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Jurors in the trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship will soon be asked to deliver a verdict.

At 10:10 a.m. Monday, the prosecution rested its case. In a surprising move just moments after a bench conference, the defense also rested without calling any witnesses to the stand.

Martin Valent / West Virginia Legislative Photography

House Speaker Tim Armstead said he was surprised to hear West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano had proposed repealing the state's Common Core-based education standards, but is skeptical of the new set of standards backed by the schools chief. 

Michael Martirano
Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia’s top education official is proposing a repeal of the state’s Common Core based education standards in exchange for a new set he says will ensure West Virginia students are both college and career ready.

State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano presented the West Virginia College and Career Ready standards to the West Virginia Board of Education Friday.

AP Photo

A federal judge has granted Don Blankenship’s attorneys weekend access to recording devices that contain the tapes of phone conversations the former CEO made during his time at Massey Energy after arguing authentication issues Friday.

Blankenship’s team attempted to bring select portions of calls in as evidence under FBI Special Agent Jim Lafferty, a government witness who led the investigation into Massey after the Upper Big Branch mine disaster in 2010.

Don Blankenship
Joel Ebert / The Charleston Gazette-Mail

After 31 days of presenting witness testimony and hundreds of pieces of evidence, the U.S. Attorney's Office was set to rest its case Thursday against former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. That was, until a motion from the defense to allow them to use a government witness to bring in more evidence threw the prosecution, once again, off course. 

In this week's podcast, host Scott Finn discusses that motion with West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Ashton Marra and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Hissam as well as the government's arguments surrounding a 2010 Massey Securities Exchange Commission filing and defense motions for acquittal.

Don Blankenship
Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The U.S. Attorney's Office has called its final witness in the trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. FBI Special Agent Jim Lafferty took the stand Tuesday morning. 

The government guided Lafferty through a number of documents he testified he'd reviewed during the course of his investigation, including a number of daily violation reports, filings with the federal Securities Exchange Commission and examination books kept by miners at the Upper Big Branch mine. 

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The sixth full week of the trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship has been almost exclusively focused on Bill Ross, a key witness for the prosecution.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Jurors heard emotional testimony from former Massey Energy safety official Bill Ross who broke down on the stand Wednesday morning as he discussed his 2009 recommendations to improve safety at the mining company.

Ross began his second day of testimony Wednesday in the trial of ex-Massey CEO Don Blankenship.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A 32-year Mine Safety and Health Administration official turned Massey Energy mine planning and safety specialist testified the company had a reputation of defiance when it came to following mine safety regulations. 

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A federal judge has denied a motion made by defense attorneys Friday to again question a government witness in the trial of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

Blankenship's lead attorney, Bill Taylor, made the motion to re-cross examine former Performance Coal President and Upper Big Branch mine operator Chris Blanchard after he said extensive new evidence was entered by the prosecution during his redirect. 

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The prosecution wrapped their redirect examination of former Performance Coal President and Upper Big Branch mine operator Chris Blanchard late Friday afternoon, but the unconventional witness may not be done on the stand just yet. Defense attorneys Friday moved to “take another crack” at Blanchard.

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

After a week on the stand and nearly five days of cross examination by the defense, prosecutors are attempting to save their case set off track by former Performance Coal President Chris Blanchard. In this week's episode of the podcast "Blankenship on Trial," host Dave Mistich discusses Blanchard's testimony with West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Ashton Marra and Charleston attorney Mike Hissam. 

Jeff Pierson

As defense attorneys continued their fourth day of cross examining a government witness, a federal judge has once again ruled to exclude defense presented evidence from the trial of former Massey CEO Don Blankenship. 

Blankenship's lead attorney, Bill Taylor ad attempted to enter videos of a 2009 Massey safety meeting as evidence in his cross examination of former Performance Coal President and Upper Big Branch mine operator Chris Blanchard. 

Jeff Pierson

In his third day in the witness seat, former Marfork and Performance Coal President Chris Blanchard continued to answer questions about safety priorities at Massey Energy.

Blanchard is testifying in the trial of former Massey CEO Don Blankenship who faces charges for conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards and lying to investors and securities officials. 

Blanchard's coal group oversaw production at the Upper Big Branch mine. 

Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

In this week's episode of "Blankenship on Trial," host Scott Finn discusses the latest witness to take the stand, Performance Coal President and Upper Big Branch mine operator Chris Blanchard, with West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Ashton Marra and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Hissam. 

President Barack Obama
AP Photo/Steve Helber

The nation’s substance abuse epidemic is taking center stage after President Obama announced new federal policies to combat the issue Wednesday. The president announced those changes during a trip to Charleston.

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