Justice was done today by a hard-working jury in West Virginia that convicted Don Blankenship of conspiracy to obstruct federal mine safety rules. This conspiracy was the primary cause of an enormous explosion that killed 29 men in the worst mine disaster in 40 years. Although the jury was not presented with the question of whether Blankenship was directly responsible for the explosion, it did decide that he played Russian roulette with miners’ lives. By underfunding efforts to comply with and harassing employees to ignore safety rules so they could “dig coal” faster, and threatening managers with dismissal if they worked to solve ventilation and other problems at the mine, Blankenship made an already hazardous workplace into a horror show that made men fear for their lives every time they journeyed thousands of feet underground.
Defense counsel will undoubtedly make much of the jury’s decision not to convict Blankenship of lying to the government, but those two counts were relatively minor. The first count was the heart of the case. We can only hope that after the inevitable appeals, Don Blankenship gets the prison time he so richly deserves.