A “Daubert” hearing for Dr. Ian Williams, chief of the Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was held Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Albany, GA. The hearing, which lasted less than two hours, was held to decide if Williams, one of the Atlanta-based CDC’s top officials, should be allowed to testify as an expert witness in the criminal trial of three former Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) executives now underway in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. Judge W. Louis Sands, who conducted the hearing after dismissing the jury for the day, did not make an immediate ruling, but said he’d see the parties again this morning. The trial has entered its sixth week with Williams’ status as an expert witness undetermined. Sands allowed the defense to challenge the government’s request to designate Williams as an expert witness because of the late disclosure. But the judge cancelled the original July hearing date when Thomas J. Bondurant Jr., lead defense attorney for former PCA owner and chief executive Stewart Parnell, was not going to be available. In cancelling the original date of the hearing, Sands said, “The matter is not as urgent as once represented.” Williams heads up the CDC unit that helps coordinate the national network of epidemiologists and other public health officials who investigate outbreaks of foodborne, waterborne, and other enteric illnesses throughout the United States. “Daubert” is the name the federal courts have assigned to an evidentiary hearing held for the purpose of determining if someone has sufficient scientific and technical testimony and evidence to qualify as an expert witness. On Tuesday, Williams was able to present his credentials, including a Ph.D. in Infectious Disease Epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Heath and a M.S. in Preventive Medicine from The Ohio State University. He also is a graduate of CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service Program. Since the 76-count indictment against the former PCA executives was unsealed in February 2013, Sands has held one other “Daubert” hearing associated with the criminal case. That hearing was over the status of Dr. Joseph Conley, Stewart Parnell’s Virginia neuropsychologist. Conley wanted to testify as an expert about Parnell suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but he is not being allowed to do so. Tuesday’s jury session began with Daniel Kilgore ending four days on the witness stand with about one hour and 15  minutes of cross-examination time that was not completed before the long Labor Day weekend. Kilgore is the former operations manager for the PCA peanut processing plant in Blakely, GA. He reached a plea agreement with the government before the indictment was unsealed to offer his testimony in exchange for consideration at sentencing. After Kilgore stepped down, the prosecution picked up the pace for the jury by putting on five more witnesses. Also, the government took a step that might help tidy up its case by stipulating the “foundation for and source location of documents.” It identifies documents and materials produced by search warrants, voluntary production, and in response to grand jury subpoenas. It also identifies two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents who may testify about information obtained from other agents. The technical stipulations were apparently agreed to in order to “narrow the issues in this trial and to facilitate judicial economy ….” However, none of the attorneys is giving up the right to call any witnesses deemed necessary. Parnell, his peanut broker brother Michael Parnell, and Mary Wilkerson, the former quality control manager at Blakely, GA, will enter the 26th day of their criminal jury trial on Wednesday. Samuel Lightsey, the former PCA plant manger at Blakely, was indicted with them, but last May entered into a plea bargain of his own. He testified for six days earlier in the trial. Criminal charges in the case involve fraud and conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and placing both misbranded and adulterated peanut butter and peanut paste into interstate commerce. The charges were brought after a four-year investigation led by the FBI into the 2008-09 Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak that sickened more than 700 and killed nine people. (Editor’s note: Dallas Carter was the courtroom observer for Food Safety News and assisted in compiling this report.)