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..

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail