In advance of a Dec. 6 pre-trial hearing, U.S. Department of Justice attorneys have disclosed a list of expert witnesses they plan to call when four former Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) executives go on trial early next year. The list is part of the government’s response to various discovery motions by PCA’s former quality assurance manger, Mary Wilkerson. In court documents, the government redacted the names of the expert witnesses it plans to call, but not their titles, organization, and biographies. Among those testifying for the government will be:

  • The corporate director of food safety for Albany, GA-based Birdsong Peanuts
  • The president of Deibel Laboratories Group
  • The senior science advisor to the director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • The senior advisor to the director of CFSAN
  • FDA inspectors who conducted the Jan. 9-Feb. 5, 2009, inspection of the PCA plant in Blakely, GA
  • The supervisory microbiologist at FDA’s Arkansas Regional Laboratory
  • The director of the plant industry division, Georgia State Department of Agriculture
  • Two microbiologists from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Food and Drug Protection Division
  • A computer forensic examiner, FBI Computer Analysis Response Team (CART)

Wilkerson faces two counts of obstruction of justice, the lightest charges among the four defendants, but she has made demands on the government over discovery issues. In their response, government attorneys say that while “uncertainties remain” as to exactly who might be called at trial, Wilkerson has “personal knowledge” and is aware from copies of law enforcement reports, inspection reports, laboratory reports, and interview reports who might end up as witnesses. They point out she knows the PCA customers cited in the indictment and the laboratories that were used. DOJ attorneys also say there is “no reasonable alternative” than to have provided defendants with electronic copies of millions of documents that will be used at trial. They noted that this is the only way the documents are readily searchable. The four former PCA executives, indicted last February on 76 federal felony counts involving fraud, conspiracy, and placing adulterated food into interstate commerce, are scheduled for trial next February. The other three defendants are brothers Stewart and Michael Parnell, PCA’s chief executive officer and peanut broker, respectively, and Samuel Lightsey, the Blakely, GA, plant manager. The four were charged in connection with an investigation into the 2008-2009 Salmonella outbreak traced back to PCA peanut butter that killed nine and sickened 700 in multiple states.