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Ex-Coal CEO Blankenship Argues He's Wrongly Imprisoned

Ashton Marra/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Wednesday in the appeal by former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship. Blankenship was convicted last year of conspiring to violate federal mine safety laws in connection with a 2010 disaster at a West Virginia mine.

As reporter Ashton Marra, of the Ohio Valley ReSource, tells us, the panel of judges focused on just one of four of Blankenship’s arguments to overturn his conviction.

Defense attorneys argue one of the instructions given to the jury allowed them to convict the defendant for failing to take action to prevent mine safety violations, whether he had the intent to stop them or not.

His attorneys have said Blankenship did intend to prevent violations in his mines therefore did not willfully violate the law.

Prosecutors argued, though, that the instructions followed decades of court precedent and one instruction cannot be interpreted out of the context of the entire set.

Blankenship was charged with conspiring to violate federal mine safety standards and lying about the safety record of Massey Energy during the 15 months before the Upper Big Branch mine disaster. An explosion there in April 2010 killed 29 men. Blankenship reported to a federal prison in May.

It could take one to three months before there's a decision about his appeal.

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