Knowledge is a powerful thing, especially where it comes into play in a federal criminal case. A new dispute has erupted between government and defense lawyers in the pre-trial proceedings involving former Peanut Corporation of America chief executive Stewart Parnell’s all-over knowledge. Government prosecutors say Parnell’s defense attorneys have misstated the law regarding whether knowledge is an essential element of any of the offenses charged, and that they should get a “surreply” or sort of a legal do-over, in their arguments against allowing an expert witness at trial. Defense attorneys say that a surreply is not necessary and point to nearly seven hours of testimony, a 197-page hearing transcript and 193 pages of exhibits as enough. “In total, the government, not the defendant, has created 433 pages of argument and evidence on this issue for the defendant and this court to review,” E. Scott Austin, Parnell’s lead attorney says. “If the government has not yet had the opportunity to make its argument on this issue clear, then one would be hard-pressed to imagine a scenario where the government could make its argument,” he added. The pre-trial issue is whether Dr. Joseph C. Conley, Jr., the neuropsychologist who claims Parnell suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) should be allowed to testify as an expert at trial. That  jury trial, scheduled to get underway this summer, is supposed to decide whether Parnell is guilty or not guilty of 72 federal felony charges stemming from an investigation into the 2008-2009 Salmonella outbreak involving peanut butter and peanut paste from PCA plants in Georgia and Texas. Charges include conspiracy, introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead, introduction of misbranded food into instate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead, instate shipments fraud, wire fraud and obstruction of justice. The outbreak involved 700 illnesses and nine deaths. Government attorneys want to make additional arguments over the expert witness issues because they claim Parnell’s attorneys committed a “misstatement of law” by saying for the first time that “knowledge is not an essential element” of any of the offenses charged against Parnell. They filed a motion with U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands asking to brief the issue because it had not been raised earlier by the defense. The motion states that knowledge is a required element for most of the crimes of which Parnell stands accused. In response to the government motion, Austin says that prosecutors are  incorrect and take arguments on Parnell’s behalf “out of context of the overarching legal and factual setting ….” Austin states, “Parnell’s defense is not that he was incapable or unable to obtain the knowledge required to commit a criminal offense (including conspiracy), but rather that he never formed the intent required to be guilty of a criminal offense. And, as stated in his Reply, knowledge as an essential element of a crime is significantly different that factual knowledge that may make it more likely or not that a defendant formed a criminal intent, the issue surrounding Dr. Conley’s testimony.” Parnell and three other former executives of the peanut processing company were indicted in February 2013 on a total of 76 federal felony counts. All four defendants are free on bail and to assist in their own defense. Stewart Parnell’s brother, Michael Parnell, PCAs former vice president and peanut broker; Samuel Lightsey, PCA’s Georgia plant manager, and Mary Wilkerson, the quality control manger, are the other three defendants. The three have been on the sidelines while Sands, the trial judge, conducted pre-trial “Daubert” proceedings over Conley’s status. Expert witness proceedings are named for “Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals,” a precedent-setting case on expert witnesses. Other important dates leading up to the trial include: April: Hearing for other pre-trial motions is April 30. May: Deadline of May 20 for government and defense attorneys to file any start-of-trial motions known as “in limine.” June: Responses to motions in limine will be due June 9, and replies must be turned in by June 19. A June 24 pre-trial hearing will be held for Sands to hear arguments on the start-of-trial motions. Sands wants the attorneys to meet regarding exhibits on June 25. July: Attorneys must propose voir dire questions for the jury and jury instructions by July 7. If all of this stays on the tracks, the jury trial will begin on July 14.