Everybody seems to agree the 900 or so exhibits from a 2014 jury trial should be turned over in one form or another to the three defendants who are appealing their sentences and convictions in the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) criminal prosecution. Yet, it has not happened to the satisfaction of the defense. All parties moved from the Georgia federal trial court in Albany to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11h Circuit in Atlanta where its all gotten twisted up enough to stall the proceedings again. blakelypcaplant09_406x250Currently, the appeals of Stewart Parnell, Michael Parnell and Mary Wilkerson remain on hold. Originally, there was a  time-out to allow the trial court  to finish the restitution phase of the sentencing. Federal Judge W. Louise Sands finished with restitution proceedings with an April 6, 2016 order finding no restitution  was required. The defendants were sentenced this past September with brothers Stewart and Michael Parnell getting prisons sentences of 28 and 20 years, respectively, for convictions on multiple counts of fraud and conspiracy, including allowing adulterated food to enter interstate commerce. Stewart was PCA’ s chief executive and his brother, Michael, a peanut broker doing deals for PCA. Wilkerson was PCA’s manager of quality control at the company’s peanut processing plant at Blakely, GA.  She was sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted on a single count of obstruction of justice. The Georgia plant produced peanut butter and paste that was contaminated with a dangerous Salmonella strain that sickened thousands and killed nine people in a 2008-09 outbreak. The trio’s appeals are held up because all of the appellant attorneys say they have not been provided with copies of the government’s trial exhibits. “For some reason unbeknownst to me, the government in this case chose not to provide a copy of the exhibits to defense counsel (even in electronic form),” wrote Joseph R. Pope, attorney for Michael Parnell. “Instead, defense counsel was allowed ‘the opportunity’ to rifle through boxes of exhibits in the courtroom, take documents to the clerk’s office, and have the clerk make copies at the cost of 50 cents per page. Trial counsel of course did not have the time, manpower, or budget to make a copy of thousands of pages of exhibits while simultaneously fulfilling their professional duties to defend their clients at trial.” Pope’s comments came in a letter to K. Alan Dasher, the assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia and lead criminal prosecutor of the PCA-related executives. “Accordingly, because trial counsel was unable to obtain a copy of the exhibits, I, as Michael Parnell’s appellate counsel, have never seen the government’s exhibits (aside from the few that were included in the government’s response to appellant’s motion for bond pending appeal.),” Pope added. Dasher responded to Pope with a letter saying the government has been “more than” cooperative” and he urged the appellant attorneys to take advantage of the “clerk’s commitment” to provide copies of the exhibits. Wilkerson’s court-appointed attorney early last month asked Judge Sands to order that she be given copies of the 900-plus exhibits from the trial without charge. She also asked for expert services to help her counsel “in sifting through the voluminous evidence.” In ruling against Wilkerson’s motion Sands said he is “without authority to authorize payment for copies of trial exhibits for appeals purposes.” Sands noted that the exhibits have not been electrically scanned and are without the “Bates” numbers assigned to them during trial. Sands said Wilkerson’s court-appointed attorney should seek reimbursements for what he needs  from the Eleventh Circuit, “not this court.” Pope put the dispute in the lap of the appeals court on April 20 . “Appellate counsel also wishes to inform the court that the government did not provide defendants copies of trial exhibits, either in hard copy or electronic form. The government claimed that defense counsel never request copies of the stamped exhibits, but trial counsel for all the parties have a very different recollection,” said Pope, who practices with the Williams Mullen law firm out of Richmond. Pope also informed the court that appellate counsel have made several requests to obtain the exhibits from the government to “assist in preparation of the joint appeal.” He said the government refused the requests and offer up the option of copies at the Clerk’s office at 50 cents per page. Wilkerson, Pope said, cannot exercise her constitutional right to appeal without copies of the exhibits her attorney sought from Sands without success. In his status report, Wilkerson’s attorney Thomas G. Ledford told the appeals court that the government’s failure to provide the exhibits is “not unlike the persistent Brady violations perpetrated by government prosecutors through pre-trial and trial of this matter with regard to Brady denying due process of the constitutional rights of the appellant.” Brady is a term referring to the government’s obligation to produce documents and evidence for review by the defense. Ledford said the appeal should not be placed on the active docket until the government provides the exhibits. Government attorney John-Alex Romano, who is out of the criminal division’s appellate section at the Department of Justice, said the 11th Circuit should decide. “The government defers to the court on whether the briefing schedule should remain stayed as requested by the defendants,” said Romano, adding “each defendant in this case long ago received copies of the government’s trial exhibits.” Romano says electronic copies were never introduced into evidence, only hard copies. “Responsibility for the delays alleged her by defendants does not lie with the government,” he concludes. All three defendants are awaiting the outcome of their appeals at Federal Correctional Institution (FCIs). Stewart Parnell, 61, is held at Estill FCI in South Carolina; Michael Parnell, 57, at Milan FCI in Michigan; and Wilkerson, 42, remains in custody at Marianna FCI in Florida. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)