Last month, Berger sentenced former Upper Big Branch miner Thomas Harrah to 10 months in jail. Harrah pleaded guilty to faking a foreman's license when he performed key mine safety examinations at the mine between January 2008 and August 2009 and to then lying to investigators about his actions.
In the Stover case, defense lawyers sought to suppress Stover's own statements to investigators, arguing he was not read his legal rights before those interviews. Berger disagreed, saying Stover was not entitled to be read his rights because neither interview was considered "custodial."
Berger also ruled against Stover's request that jurors not hear testimony or statements from prosecutors that mention that mine disaster.
The judge said the rest of the case against Stover would not make sense outside of the context of the disaster, but did caution prosecutors that "unnecessary, graphic and irrelevant details" of the explosion would not be allowed at trial.
Prosecutors also won a round with a ruling by Berger that defense lawyers can't introduce evidence about results of an honesty test given as part of an employment screening to two Massey security officers who are expected to testify against Stover. Berger ruled, "There is no evidence that the results ... are reliable to assess the witnesses' character for truthfulness and untruthfulness."
Berger also ruled that the defense would not be able to introduce evidence of a prior domestic battery charge and a shoplifting conviction of another security guard supervisor who is expected to testify against Stover.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.