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Judge tells Blankenship jury to keep deliberating

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Jurors in the Don Blankenship criminal trial went home Thursday evening after more than six hours of deliberations, with instructions to return to their work today, despite an early note in which they told the judge they had not been able to reach a verdict on the three felony charges pending against the former Massey Energy CEO.

U.S. District Judge Irene Berger had ordered the eight women and four men on the jury to continue deliberating, saying it was far too soon to consider a mistrial or even an instruction aimed at urging jurors to carefully consider the views of fellow jurors and be willing to change their minds.

The order for the jury to keep at it came at midday Thursday, in only the second full day of deliberations following a landmark trial that included 24 days of testimony with 27 witnesses and more than 500 exhibits.

“Given the length of this trial and the number of witnesses that you heard and the amount of time that you have deliberated, I am going to order that you continue your deliberations in this case,” Berger told the jurors before releasing them for lunch.

When they left for the evening, shortly before 5 p.m., jurors had deliberated for a little more than 13 hours since beginning that work Tuesday afternoon.

“The jury hasn’t had time to review the voluminous evidence,” said Pat McGinley, a West Virginia University law professor who helped investigate the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster and has followed the Blankenship case. “When a jury decides early in a case that it can’t reach agreement, after a judge sends it back for further deliberations, consensus is often achieved…

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