Supreme Court leaves Don Blankenship conviction in place

Oct 3, 2022, 7:25 AM | Updated: 7:50 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court says it won’t review the conviction of former coal CEO Don Blankenship, who was found guilty of conspiring to violate safety standards at West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch mine before the 2010 explosion that killed 29 men.

The justices said Monday they would not take the case of the former CEO of Massey Energy who spent a year in prison following his conviction stemming from the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in 40 years. That leaves in place lower court decisions rejecting his efforts to get his misdemeanor conviction thrown out. As is typical, the high court did not explain its decision and denied the case among a long list of others. Monday is the first day of the court’s new term.

A federal jury in West Virginia convicted Blankenship in 2015 of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety standards but acquitted him of more serious charges. He was sentenced to a year in prison and fined $250,000.

In 2019, however, a federal magistrate judge recommended that Blankenship’s conviction be thrown out. The judge agreed with Blankenship that his rights were violated because prosecutors didn’t turn over evidence that was favorable to him. That included FBI and Department of Labor interviews with Massey employees. A government review separately found that some material should have been turned over.

A federal district judge, however, ruled that despite the prosecution’s failure to disclose numerous documents, the conduct “resulted in no prejudice” toward Blankenship. Most of the substance of the documents that was favorable to Blankenship did come out at trial, the judge said. An appeals court also ruled against Blankenship before the Supreme Court declined to hear his case.

Investigations into the Upper Big Branch mine disaster found that worn and broken cutting equipment created a spark that ignited accumulations of coal dust and methane gas. Broken and clogged water sprayers allowed what should have been a minor flare-up to become an inferno.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


This photo provided by Robert Wilkes, owner of a house boat management company, shows smoke rising ...

Associated Press

Houseboats catch fire while docked at Wahweap Marina on Lake Powell

More than half a dozen house boats momentarily caught fire at a popular boating destination on the Utah-Arizona line on Friday.

1 day ago

File - Women work in a restaurant kitchen in Chicago, Thursday, March 23, 2023. On Friday, the U.S....

Associated Press

US hiring, unemployment jump in May and what that says about the economy

The nation’s employers stepped up their hiring in May, adding a robust 339,000 jobs, well above expectations.

1 day ago

(Pixabay Photo)...

Associated Press

Oath Keeper from Arizona sentenced for role in Jan. 6 riot at US Capitol

Edward Vallejo, a U.S. Army veteran from Phoenix, oversaw a “Quick Reaction Force” at a Virginia hotel that was prepared to deploy an arsenal of weapons into Washington if needed, authorities say.

2 days ago

FILE - U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz listens during a news conference, Jan. 5, 2023, in Washi...

Associated Press

US Border Patrol chief is retiring after seeing through end of Title 42 immigration restrictions

The head of the U.S. Border Patrol announced Tuesday that he was retiring, after seeing through a major policy shift that seeks to clamp down on illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border following the end of Title 42 pandemic restrictions.

3 days ago

FILE - President Joe Biden talks with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., on the House steps as...

Associated Press

House OKs debt ceiling bill to avoid default, sends Biden-McCarthy deal to Senate

The House approved a debt ceiling and budget cuts package late Wednesday, as President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy assembled a bipartisan coalition of centrist Democrats and Republicans against fierce conservative blowback and progressive dissent.

3 days ago

Sean Bickings (Family Photo via city of Tempe)...

Associated Press

Family of man who drowned last year in Tempe Town Lake files wrongful death lawsuit

The family of a man who drowned in Tempe Town Lake a year ago filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city Wednesday, noting that its police department doesn't have a policy requiring officers to go into the water to save someone.

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles



Thank you to Al McCoy for 51 years as voice of the Phoenix Suns

Sanderson Ford wants to share its thanks to Al McCoy for the impact he made in the Valley for more than a half-decade.


Desert Institute for Spine Care

Spinal fusion surgery has come a long way, despite misconceptions

As Dr. Justin Field of the Desert Institute for Spine Care explained, “we've come a long way over the last couple of decades.”

(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...

Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.

Supreme Court leaves Don Blankenship conviction in place