Blankenship jury to resume work next week

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The jury in the Don Blankenship criminal case will resume its work next week considering the evidence presented in a lengthy and complicated case that charges the former Massey Energy chief executive officer with three felony counts related to events at the Upper Big Branch Mine, where 29 workers died in an April 2010 explosion.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger released the jurors for a five-day break starting about 5 p.m. Tuesday, after the jury deliberated for more than than six more hours without reaching a verdict.

“Have a good and restful weekend and happy Thanksgiving to all of you,” Berger told the jurors.

Before releasing the jurors, the judge had held another closed-door meeting with attorneys in the case. After the jurors left, Berger denied another motion from Bill Taylor, Blankenship’s lead defense lawyer, asking the judge to declare the jurors deadlocked and order a mistrial.

Noting that the trial was lengthy and involved complicated charges, Berger said that the jury’s deliberation time to date was not unreasonable.

“I think the jury has been stellar,” Berger said. “They’re continuing apparently to talk.”

Jurors heard 24 days of evidence, including 27 witnesses and more than 500 exhibits, since Oct. 7, and attended court for four other days during jury selection that started Oct. 1. They have deliberated for more than 32 hours over six days…

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