FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Prosecute Massey for Manslaughter

A group of citizen activists are calling on the state of West Virginia to prosecute Massey Energy for manslaughter.

The group has set up a web site — prosecutemassey.org – that allows citizens to petition the state prosecutor to bring manslaughter charges against the coal company in connection with the April 5 explosion that claimed the lives of 29 coal miners.

“If there is evidence to support a homicide prosecution, I would not hesitate to prosecute,” Kristen Keller, the prosecuting attorney for Raleigh County, said last month.

Keller says she has been in touch with the West Virginia State Police on the matter.

And she says that any federal regulatory investigation would not preclude a state homicide investigation.

“A federal regulatory investigation does not satisfy the need for a state criminal investigation,” Keller said. “If there were a car accident where one or ten or 29 people were killed – a federal investigation would not preclude a state criminal investigation. In fact, there would be a state criminal investigation.”

The group is seeking to place billboards throughout the state.

The billboard reads:

29 Coal Miners Dead
Prosecute Massey for Manslaughter

And the group is seeking to take out radio ads throughout the state.

West Virginia has an involuntary manslaughter law.

According to state law:

“Involuntary manslaughter involves the accidental causing of death of another person, although unintended, which death is the proximate result of negligence so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life.”

Under West Virginia law, reckless disregard is something more than ordinary or simple negligence.

It is negligence that consciously ignores the safety of others.

And so the question is – do Massey’s actions at the Upper Big Branch mine meet the standard for reckless disregard?

The Washington Post reported last month that federal safety inspectors who visited Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch coal mine early this year said senior managers showed “reckless disregard” for worker safety by telling a foreman to ignore a citation the mine had received for faulty ventilation, according to the inspectors’ handwritten notes.

The notes, from inspections in early January, say the president and a vice president of Massey Energy’s Performance Coal subsidiary told a foreman at the Upper Big Branch mine “not to worry about it” when he spoke to them about a ventilation problem cited by federal mine safety inspectors three weeks earlier.

They told the foreman “it was fine,” according to the notes, citing the account of a mine employee.

The Post reported that the sharpest words in the notes came January 7, when an unidentified mine employee told an inspector that a serious ventilation problem – air flowing the wrong direction in an intake duct — had not been fixed because Performance Coal President Christopher Blanchard and Vice President Jamie Ferguson had instructed a foreman, Terry Moore, to disregard the issue.

The foreman said he had known about the problem for three weeks.

The federal mine safety inspector went on to say that “the operator has shown a reckless disregard of care to the miners on this section and [eligible] men that use this escapeway.”

He added later that “I believe the operator has shown high negligence due to fact of management knowing where problem is.”

He said the ventilation flaw could “result in fatal injuries” by sending methane to the coal face where drilling was taking place.

Corporations have been prosecuted for homicide for reckless disregard in the past – most notably Ford Motor Company in the late 1970s.

On August 10, 1978, three teenage girls driving in a Ford Pinto were hit from behind on Highway 33 in northern Indiana.

Within moments their car burst into flames and Lyn Ulrich, 16 and her cousin Donna Ulrich, 18, were burned to death.

Eight hours later, Lyn’s 18-year-old sister, Judy, who had third degree burns over 95 percent of her body, also died.

When an Indiana grand jury looked into the accident a month later, they voted unanimously to indict not the driver of the van that had rear-ended the three girls, but Ford Motor Company – then the country’s third largest industrial corporation – on three counts of reckless homicide.

The automaker was accused of recklessly designing, manufacturing and marketing the Pinto’s unsafe fuel tank system.

Although Ford was ultimately acquitted, the criminal prosecution of Ford Motor Company reestablished an important precedent:

In certain cases involving human health and safety, corporations and their executives could be required to submit not only to the scrutiny and sanctions of traditional federal agencies, but to state criminal courts as well.

RUSSELL MOKHIBER is the editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter.

WORDS THAT STICK

 

More articles by:

Russell Mokhiber is the editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter..

July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS class struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail