After three days of work to select a jury for the criminal trial of three former Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) executives, the final 52 prospective jurors will return this morning for “the striking process.” U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands hopes to have a 12-member jury and four alternates selected today so the trial can get underway on Friday. During the past three days, Sands has excused some prospective jurors based on how some answered his questions during private interview sessions and others who were able to persuade him that they could not handle, for either personal or financial reasons, serving on a jury for a trial that could last eight weeks or more. Those cuts took the number of prospects down to the 52 who will return Thursday for a fourth day in the selection process. Once empaneled, the jury will decide whether former PCA chief executive Stewart Parnell, his peanut broker brother Michael Parnell, and former quality control manager Mary Wilkerson are guilty or not on felony charges involving conspiracy and fraud, along with obstruction of justice and illegal shipping of misbranded and adulterated peanut butter in interstate commerce. Also on Wednesday, Sands issued two written orders that went against defense motions in the case. In the first, he put his bench ruling into writing, refusing to dismiss charges against Wilkerson or to give her a trial separate from the Parnells, as she had requested. Sands said he had already granted a two-week delay in the start of the trial “in an abundance of caution” to make up for certain documents being late in getting to the defense from the prosecution. He called dismissing the charges against her “an extreme sanction,” and he said that he was not granting Wilkerson a separate trial because no memorandum of law was included for that part of her motion. The judge also struck down a motion from Stewart Parnell’s attorneys requesting that the court take “judicial notice” of the fact that Salmonella is injurious to human health. Parnell’s defense team wanted such a judicial notice to cut down on witness testimony about Salmonella-related illnesses. All the charges stem from an investigation into the 2008-09 nationwide Salmonella outbreak that sickened more than 700 people and resulted in nine deaths. The source of the outbreak was traced to PCA’s Blakely, GA, peanut processing plant. The deadly outbreak led to the largest food recall based on a single ingredient in U.S history. Almost 4,000 products thought to contain PCA peanut butter or peanut paste were subsequently recalled by hundreds of U.S. food companies. (Editor’s note: Dallas Carter was the courtroom observer for Food Safety News and assisted in compiling this report.)