If Dr. Joseph C. Conley, Jr., is allowed to testify as an expert witness in this summer’s planned criminal trial of former Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) executives, Stewart Parnell’s attorneys say it could help win an acquittal for their client. Conley is the clinical neuropsychologist who diagnosed Parnell, former chief executive officer of the now-defunct PCA, as suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). After last month’s nearly seven hours of testimony over whether or not Conley should be designated as an expert witness, government and defense attorneys are now exchanging legal briefs on the issue. U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands will eventually make the pre-trial decision. “The government, both in its initial motion, and in its subsequent reply, ignores the fact that the Eleventh Circuit has adopted a rule stating that psychiatric evidence that offers to establish facts indicating that the defendant did not commit the crime is proper and admissible,” wrote Roanoke, VA, defense attorney E. Scott Austin. Austin then continued, “The rule is precisely the situation before this Court: Dr. Conley’s testimony offers information to establish facts indicating that Parnell did not commit the crime the government alleges (because he lacks knowledge), and does not seek to introduce opinions into evidence indicating that Parnell could not help himself from committing the criminal acts alleged.” In February 2013, a federal grand jury charged Parnell and three others with a total of 76 federal felony counts. The indictment followed a four-year investigation into PCA’s peanut butter business after it was associated with a national Salmonella outbreak that sickened 700 and killed nine in late 2008 and early 2009. Conspiracy and fraud, along with introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce, top the charges in the criminal case that has also been officially designated as “complex.” Government and defense attorneys have been sparring since late 2013 over Conley’s role in the coming jury trial, and Judge Sands last month held a one-day evidentiary hearing and then ordered the attorneys to brief the issues involved. Austin argues that Conley meets a three-part test for expert witnesses established by the U.S. Supreme Court in that he is qualified, used a reliable methodology, and would provide testimony that would assist the trier of fact. Conley is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Commonwealth of Virginia who claims to have made 8-10,000 ADHD evaluations over the course of his career. Austin claims the government has not challenged his qualifications. The defense also claims that Conley’s methodology enjoys wide use and acceptance. The expert from Johns Hopkins brought in by the government said that the tests Conley administered on Parnell “were pretty reasonable.” “Dr. Conley’s testimony will not confuse a jury and forms part of the factual context that the jury is empanelled to determine,” Austin wrote. “There is no risk that the jury will be distracted from focusing on the actual presence or absence of mens rea because the testimony offered by Dr. Conley does not even deal with Parnell’s mens rea. The legal term “mens rea” is Latin for being of a guilty mind. It involves having prior intention to commit a criminal act, with the knowledge that the act is a crime. “Rather, this testimony refutes the government’s position that Parnell read and understood the emails and managed to orchestrate and implement a complicated scheme,” Austin added. “Likewise, there is no risk that the jury will be so confused by the testimony that it will be able to conclude that Parnell was somehow justified in committing the crimes alleged. Instead the jury will be presented with two factual contexts and be charged with determining which set of facts is correct or incorrect. Parnell denies committing any of the crimes alleged by the government and hence there is no need for any reliance on justifying his actions.” Government attorneys have not yet responded to Austin’s brief but will likely do so in the next 48 hours. Thomas Jack Bondurant, also from Roanoke, and Atlanta attorneys Kenneth B. Hodges III and Ellenor Stone round out Parnell’s team of defense lawyers.