Ashton Marra Published

Judge Denies More Questioning of Blanchard


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. 

Taylor listed multiple items, including more than 40 new documents, as reasons to question Blanchard a second time. They included:

  • The government’s impeachment of the witness on redirect using his previous grand jury testimony
  • Testimony Blanchard gave about the process of giving advanced notice of safety inspections at his mines
  • The disciplinary action Blanchard took against a former Upper Big Branch employee
  • Testimony about Blankenship’s direction to create smaller coal pillars in the mine, resulting in more coal produced, but weaker roof supports

Blanchard spent more than a week on the witness stand which included some five days of cross examination by Taylor.

The defense still has the option to call Blanchard as a witness of their own later in the trial.

Blankenship is charged with conspiring to violate federal mine safety laws and lying to securities officials and investors about Massey’s safety practices following the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster that killed 29 men.