The trial of the three former Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) executives that was to begin Monday is being delayed two weeks to give defense attorneys more time to review late-arriving documents from prosecutors.
Jury selection is now scheduled to begin July 28 for a trial likely to take about eight weeks. U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands ordered the delay Friday after hearing defense motions to both dismiss all charges in the case and to postpone the trial.
At issue in Friday’s pre-trial hearing at the federal courthouse in Albany, GA, was the July 1 delivery of a computer file from the prosecution that contains an estimated 100,000 documents.
Defense attorneys said the information was useless to them because the volume of documents could not be adequately reviewed in the remaining time before trial. A range of “remedies” were available to Sands to resolve the issue, including dismissing the entire 76-count federal felony indictment.
Stewart Parnell, the former PCA chief executive officer, expressed concerns in a July 3 affidavit to the court about the financial burdens he’ll face with a trial continuation.
“Should my case be continued, I will be placed in the untenable position of completely exhausting the resources of myself, my wife, and my children (who have borne much of the recent cost) or accepting a plea to a crime I have steadfastly denied committing,” Parnell wrote.
The former PCA executive says he deserves his day in court after being “charged with serious offenses and publicly ridiculed … .” He says continuance of the case violates his right to speedy trial.
The other two former PCA executives facing indictment are Michael Parnell, a former peanut broker, and Mary Wilkerson, quality control officer for the Blakely, GA, PCA plant. The Parnells are charged with fraud and conspiracy, along with placing misbranded and adulterated food into interstate commerce. Wilkerson is charged with obstruction of justice.
(Editor’s Note: Dallas Carter was the courtroom observer for Food Safety News and assisted in compiling this report.)© Food Safety News