Oral arguments are scheduled for Stewart Parnell v. United States during the week of Sept. 23, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta.

Parnell, once the top executive of the now-defunct Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), wants the appellate judges to vacate his conviction and sentencing. The 70-year-old Parnell is an inmate at the federal low-security lock-up near Durham, NC, known as Butner.

As a federal inmate, Parnell almost five years ago filed a Habeas Corpus petition, known a Motion 2255, seeking release from his 2014 jury conviction and the remaining time on his 28-year prison sentence.

Two issues from Parnell’s Motion2255 are alive for those oral arguments: jury prejudice and ineffective assistance by legal counsel.  Both of those were allowed by the 11th Circuit to proceed with “appealability.”

In 2008-09, PCA’s Georgia peanut processing plant was the source of a multi-state Salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands and resulted in numerous deaths. PCA peanut butter and paste subsequently required the recall of thousands of products.

A four-year investigation, led by the FBI, followed and resulted in criminal indictments against several PCA executives and managers, with the most charges falling on Parnell. An Albany, GA, jury found him guilty of all but one of the 68 felony counts with which he was charged on Feb. 15, 2013.  He was convicted of conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, the sale of misbranded food, and the introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce.

Stewart Parnell’s Habeas corpus petition was filed on Sept.6, 2019, and after being released for an evidentiary hearing in 2021, the District Court denied it on Sept. 23, 2022. Savannah attorney Amy Lee Copeland filed the appeal with the 11th Circuit the following year, awaiting oral arguments.

Copeland is a former federal prosecutor with appellate experience.

Coming behind Stewart Parnell’s appeal is another from his brother Michael, 65, who is also an inmate at Butner, for PCA-related convictions.

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