Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

Mike Elk

Mike Elk is a labor journalist and staff writer for In These Times

September 22nd, 2011 12:48 PM

Troy Davis Executed, While CEO Responsible for Deaths of 29 Miners Sails Free

Crossposted from the In These Times Working blog

Last night at 11:08, Troy Anthony Davis was executed in the State of Georgia for the 1989 murder of a police officer. Much doubt existed in the case as seven of the nine witnesses recanted their testimony (one even claimed that an eighth murder witness was guilty) and no DNA or other physical evidence linked Davis to the crime.

Former FBI Director William Sessions wrote, “The evidence in this case—consisting almost entirely of conflicting stories, testimonies and statements—is inadequate to the task of convincingly establishing either Davis’ guilt or his innocence.” Davis maintained his innocence up until his death, telling the family of the murdered police officer, “I was not the one who took the life of your father, son, brother.”

Last year on April 5, 29 miners died in a methane explosion caused by poor ventilation at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, W.Va. A report by the Mine Safety and Health Administration ruled that the event that caused the explosion could have easily been prevented by Massey Energy, which was well aware of a long history of safety problems in the mine. In the year leading up to the explosion, the Upper Big Branch Mine was cited 458 times for safety violations, with 50 of those violations being willful violations of the law—nearly five times the national average for citations of a single mine.

An investigation by the Mine Safety and Health Administration also revealed that Massey kept two sets of books—it recorded a clean safety record in one log book, which it provided to mine inspectors, while maintaining a private, internal log of known safety problems and the efforts made to fix them.

Despite this evidence of the willful violation of safety laws that could have prevented the miners' deaths at Upper Big Branch, and despite evidence of widespread lying to federal investigators by Massey officials, CEO Don Blankenship is a free man allowed to enjoy the splendorous life of a multi-millionaire.

Only two Massey Energy officials, one foreman and one former chief of security, have so far been indicted—not for their responsibility in the deaths, but for lying and concealing documents from federal investigators. Another 18 executives, including longtime Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, refused to be interviewed by federal investigators, pleading the Fifth Amendment as protection from self-incrimination.

Even if company officials like Blankenship are prosecuted, it is unlikely that any will do jail time. Since 1970 more than 360,000 workers have died on the job in safety accidents, while only 84 cases have been prosecuted for the willful violation of safety rules resulting in a worker's death. Even if convicted, the penalty for wrongfully killing a worker on the job is only 6 months. Quite often company officials are not jailed, but merely fined if found responsible for willfully violating safety laws leading to a worker's death. The maximum penalty for a major safety violation is a mere $7,000—a price many companies are willing to pay for the death of a worker on the job. In 2010 alone, 4,547 Americans were killed on the job.

While many right-wing politicians, such as GOP presidential contender Rick Perry, will use the execution of Troy Davis to affirm their support for tough penalties for those convicted of killing people, few will say anything about the workers who are killed by corporations in preventable work accidents every year. But as easy as it would be to say that the issue of innocent men being killed is ignored by Republican politicians, the Democrats aren't much better.

President Barack Obama refused to issue a statement on the execution of Troy Davis; likewise, he refused to move steadfastly earlier this year to implement a revision to federal law that would prevent children as young as 12 from operating potentially deadly farm equipment. (Minors working in agriculture are six times more likely to be killed in accidents than minors working in other industries.)

After three years of efforts, the Department of Labor, about a year ago, finally issued an internal proposal to revise federal law to prevent minors from working in dangerous farm occupations. Typically, rules like this are supposed to be reviewed within 90 days of their proposal to allow for quick implementation, especially rules related to life-and-death safety rules. But under heavy industry opposition, President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget held up the rules in review for nearly nine months—an “unnecessary delay,” according to Justin Feldman of Public Citizens’ Worker and Public Health Safety Advocate.

While big agriculture was busy unnecessarily delaying these rules, two 14 year old girls were electrocuted to death working on a farm in Illinois. Finally, only after the deaths of these two children and public protest from worker safety advocates, the OMB allowed the Department of Labor to take its next step.

Power and influence have clearly distorted the scales of the justice system when men like Troy Davis are executed in the face of questionable evidence of their guilt, while corporate CEOs like Don Blankenship, who evidence shows clearly and willfully disobeyed safety laws, causing the deaths of 29 workers, are allowed to go about sailing on their yachts.

I only wonder what would have been the Supreme Court's reaction to a request for stay of execution, had the petitioner been a rich white man named Don Blankenship instead of a poor black man named Troy Davis.

Creative Commons License This content is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

My father, Francis (Frank) Moore, passed away this morning a few months shy if his 93rd birthday. He was a great dad I am blessed to have had him in my life. I...

Apr 20th
2:58 AM
Read More

Time to put the cuffs on Chris Christie -- not for the bridge scandal, but for this: Chris Christie's $300m pension proposal broke state anti-corruption...

Apr 18th
7:31 PM
Read More

George W. Bush Debuts New Paintings Of Dogs, Friends, Ghost Of Iraqi Child That Follows Him... www.theonion.com President Bush has a new hobby -- painting! --...

Apr 17th
7:28 PM
Read More

Big new story from David Sirota and Pando on top Christie adviser and appearance of corruption at New Jersey's pension fund: REVEALED: Gov....

Apr 17th
12:41 PM
Read More

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States www.theonion.com WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract pando.com As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors pando.com If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa ...by Nick Turse www.michaelmoore.com Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 www.theguardian.com Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? www.huffingtonpost.com I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | RootsAction.org act.rootsaction.org The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Enron billionaire John Arnold thinks everyone should believe him when he says we've got to cut pensions because he's so incredibly rich: John...

Mar 5th
4:20 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles