Jury selection continues today at the C.B. King U.S. Courthouse in Albany, GA, to pick 12 people (and four alternates) who will decide whether or not a trio of former peanut company executives is guilty as charged. The criminal trial, charging the three with felonies for the roles they allegedly played in a deadly outbreak of a foodborne illness, may set precedents for the future that go well beyond the peanut industry. The preliminaries that began Monday come 298 weeks after PulseNet staff at the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta first noticed a cluster of Salmonella cases popping up around the country. Those scattered reports were the beginnings of an outbreak that would sweep across the nation in 2008-09, killing nine people and sickening more than 700 with Salmonella Typhimurium. The source of the outbreak was ultimately traced to a now-shuttered Blakely, GA, manufacturing plant for peanut butter and peanut paste owned by the now-bankrupt Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). After 222 weeks of investigative work led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, four former PCA executives were named in a criminal indictment charging them with a total 76 felonies. They are former chief executive officer Stewart Parnell, his peanut broker brother Michael, former Blakely plant manager Samuel Lightsey, and former quality control manager Mary Wilkerson. In a plea bargain with the government, Lightsey pleaded guilty to several felonies last May, and other charges were dismissed. He will get consideration at sentencing and remains available for the trial of the Parnell brothers and Wilkerson. The trial was delayed at least twice during the 75 weeks since the indictments were unsealed. On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands handed down rules for the trial. Once the jury is empanelled, Sands plans to run the court sessions from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and his rules require witnesses to be available at the time they are called to testify or they’ll be skipped over. In addition, the judge’s rules call upon all the parties to “cooperate and confer in good faith” to accommodate witnesses wherever possible. Witnesses will be subjected to sequestration, meaning they cannot listen to other testimony unless they’ve testified and been excused by the court. Lawyers can only request to “approach the bench” if it’s for an important matter. Sands anticipates using the time after 2 p.m. each day to hear any matters that should be heard outside the presence of the jury. It will hear all the charges brought against the three executives in what is described as a “complex” criminal case. The charges involve conspiracy, fraud, wire fraud, and obstruction of justice, along with allegations of knowingly placing both misbranded and adulterated food into interstate commerce. (Editor’s note: Dallas Carter was the courtroom observer for Food Safety News and assisted in compiling this report.)