Last November, Don Blankenship, CEO of coal company Massey Energy, was indicted on criminal charges of conspiracy to violate mandatory federal mine safety and health standards. His trial may finally begin after his attorneys filed several motions to delay a trial.

In 2010, 29 of Blankenship’s employees were killed in a coal mine explosion. Prosecutors argue that Blankenship lied to regulators and purposely violated safety regulations leading up to the 2010 explosion. Jury selection for the trial began on Thursday. Officials say this case sets a new precedent because CEOs aren’t usually held accountable in similar incidents.

“The trial is truly historic. It’s the first time someone that far up the corporate ladder has ever been held accountable,” said Rick Wilson, a project director at the nonprofit social justice advocacy group American Friends Service Committee in West Virginia.

Prosecutors allege that Blankenship received daily reports that the Upper Big Branch mines in West Virginia, where the explosion occurred, had the country’s worst safety ratings. The Mine Safety and Health Administration said in a post-blast investigation that Blankenship promoted “a workplace culture that valued production over safety.”

Hopefully, Blankenship gets held accountable for his neglectful and deadly actions. He knew that his mines were deadly and unsafe, yet he ignored the danger felt by his workers and prioritized profit above safety.

For more on this story, visit Al Jazeera America “In rare criminal case, coal baron faces trial for worker deaths”

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine and a contributing writer at He is the co-host / guest host for Ring of Fire Radio. His writings have appeared on Alternet, Truthout, and The Huffington Post. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009. Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced