Recently, the government filed two responses to four post-trial motions filed by Peanut Corporation of America (“PCA”) executives Stewart Parnell, Michael Parnell, and Mary Wilkerson. Specifically, the government responded to Mary Wilkerson’s motion for judgment of acquittal and Michael Parnell’s motion for judgment of acquittal.
In Mary Wilkerson’s motion, her lawyers argued that the government was unable to provide documentary support showing that she was aware of any samples that had tested positive for Salmonella. The government argued in its response that the evidence it presented “was more than sufficient for a rational jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant Wilkerson obstructed justice.” Specifically, the government pointed to testimony supporting Wilkerson’s conviction, including FDA investigator Janet Gray’s statements. Investigator Gray had said that Wilkerson committed obstruction by lying about her knowledge of any positive Salmonella test results at the Blakely facility. Additionally, the government highlighted emails showing Wilkerson’s knowledge of positive Salmonella test results for peanut products produced at the Blakely facility and that these positive results were frequent occurrences. The government also declared that Wilkerson waived an insufficient evidence claim by failing to assert it before the trial.
In late October, the government also filed its response to Michael Parnell’s separate motion for judgment of acquittal. Parnell’s motion for judgment of acquittal was based on two arguments: (1) the government’s evidence was insufficient to prove that he intended or knew that PCA was shipping misbranded or adulterated food or that he participated in a conspiracy to commit fraud; and (2) the not guilty verdict of shipping adulterated food but guilty verdicts of shipping misbranded food and committing fraud through interstate shipments were inconsistent.
In response to Parnell’s motion, the government said Parnell’s conviction was supported by testimony from more than 45 witnesses and “voluminous documentary evidence.” According to the government, some of the evidence supporting Parnell’s conviction included testimony regarding Parnell’s role in using samples from the production of one group of products and using those samples to replace samples from future lots that may have tested positive for Salmonella. The response also added that Parnell’s convictions were not inconsistent because “[a] rational juror could have decided that Michael Parnell was far enough removed from the actual operations of the PCA facilities that he was not culpable for the insanitary conditions within those facilities, while still finding him culpable of shipping misbranded food produced at those facilities.”
Responses from the government for the remaining post-trial motions are still awaited.