Ashton Marra Published

Blankenship's Defense Says Government Has Paper, No Proof


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.”

Taylor focused much of his closing remarks on the testimony of former Performance Coal President and Upper Big Branch mine operator Chris Blanchard. 

A key government witness, Blanchard was offered immunity to testify against Blankenship, but was hijacked by the defense in a four-day cross examination.

“Mr. Blanchard all by himself is a reasonable doubt,” Taylor said.

Blanchard previously testified he did not knowingly commit any crimes at Upper Big Branch and was not a pat of a conspiracy with Don Blankenship, although prosecutors argue Blanchard did not know the legal definition of a conspiracy when he testified.

Blankenship is charged with conspiring to violate federal mine safety laws and lying to investors and securities officials following the Upper Big Branch mine explosion. If convicted, the 65-year-old Blankenship faces up to 30 years in prison.

Blankenship has maintained his innocence since the charges were filed.