Earlier this month, former Peanut Corporation of America (“PCA”) executives Stewart Parnell, Michael Parnell, and Mary Wilkerson filed post-trial motions after receiving guilty verdicts related to actions surrounding a Salmonella outbreak involving PCA products. Specifically, brothers Stewart and Michael Parnell joined in a motion for a new trial, Michael Parnell filed a separate motion for judgment of acquittal on the 30 counts for which a jury found him guilty, and Mary Wilkerson filed a motion for judgment of acquittal on the obstruction of justice charge for which she was found guilty.
The Parnell brothers’ motion for a new trial is sealed, but it has been speculated that the motion is based on evidence that a few jurors may have conducted research outside of the trial process. Specifically, the jury may have considered extrinsic evidence surrounding the 2008-2009 Salmonella outbreak from PCA products that resulted in nine deaths. The Parnell brothers believe that this information was considered during jury deliberations despite the fact that it was not introduced during the trial.
Michael Parnell’s separate motion for judgment of acquittal is based on two arguments: (1) the government’s evidence was insufficient to prove that the defendant intended or knew that PCA was shipping misbranded or adulterated food; and (2) the government failed to prove that Michael Parnell participated in a conspiracy to commit fraud.
Mary Wilkerson also filed a separate motion for judgment of acquittal related to the sole obstruction of justice charge for which she was convicted. The conviction for this charge related to what Mary Wilkerson knew about samples that had been tested for potential Salmonella contamination. In the motion, Mary Wilkerson’s attorneys argue that the government was unable to provide logs, recordings, videos, affidavits, or statements showing that particular government agents asked the defendant whether she was aware of any samples that had tested positive for Salmonella. In addition to her motion for judgment of acquittal, Mary Wilkerson filed a separate motion requesting permission to provide information to the court under seal because of the sensitive nature of the information.
Stewart Parnell, Michael Parnell, and Mary Wilkerson were convicted on September 19, 2014. A sentencing date has not yet been set in the case.