Jury Won't Consider Deaths in Georgia Salmonella Trial

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News Release: Associated Press
September 18, 2014

ALBANY, Ga. (AP) -- A jury weighing criminal charges against the owner of a Georgia peanut plant blamed for a nationwide salmonella outbreak will decide the case without hearing one fact -- that nine people died after eating the company's tainted peanut butter.

Jury deliberations were scheduled to resume Thursday in the federal trial of former Peanut Corporation of America owner Stewart Parnell and two co-defendants. Prosecutors say Parnell knowingly shipped contaminated peanut butter and faked lab tests for salmonella.

During nearly six weeks of testimony, jurors heard evidence that people got sick. But prosecutors never mentioned deaths.

U.S. Attorney Michael Moore says prosecutors felt they could build their strongest case around fraud charges, and testimony regarding deaths would have distracted jurors and possibly made any convictions vulnerable to appeals.

News Release: Associated Press

ALBANY, Ga. (AP) -- A Georgia peanut plant manager says he knew his company was submitting false lab tests to its customers before a nationwide salmonella outbreak killed nine Americans and sickened more than 700 people five years ago.

Sammy Lightsey testified during the federal trial of his former boss Stewart Parnell, the owner of the Peanut Company of America. Parnell and two others are charged with knowingly shipping tainted food and covering up lab tests that showed salmonella.

Lightsey managed the plant in Blakely, Georgia, from July 2008 until the outbreak forced it to shut down and go bankrupt. He pleaded guilty to seven federal counts in May after agreeing to testify for prosecutors.

He told jurors Friday that the plant shipped contaminated paste with documents showing clean tests from other batches.

News Release: Associated Press
August 7, 2014

ALBANY, Ga. (AP) -- A federal food safety inspector who investigated a deadly salmonella outbreak linked to a Georgia peanut plant says the company was "not fit to produce products for human consumption."

Janet Gray of the Food and Drug Administration testified Wednesday in the federal trial of three people charged with covering up contamination at the Peanut Corp. of America plant, and knowingly shipping infected nuts to customers.

The outbreak five years ago killed nine people and sickened more than 700 around the U.S.

Gray described company records for the jury that showed at least eight times when nuts were shipped after testing positive for salmonella. And she said equipment at the plant wasn't cleaned even after the salmonella showed up.

News Release: Associated Press
August 1, 2014

ALBANY, Ga. (AP) -- A federal prosecutor says a Georgia peanut plant linked to a deadly salmonella outbreak fabricated food-safety lab results sent to customers including food giant Kellogg's.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Dasher told jurors in an opening statement Friday that Peanut Corp. of America officers and managers shipped chopped nuts and peanut paste without waiting for microbiological testing, and sometimes faked lab certificates for customers requiring them. Dasher says customers weren't notified if the company later received positive tests for salmonella.

Defense attorneys were to address the jury in U.S. District Court later.

Peanut company owner Stewart Parnell; his brother and food broker, Michael Parnell; and plant quality control manager Mary Wilkerson are standing trial on 76 criminal counts.

Nine people died and more than 700 were sickened in the 2009 outbreak.

News Release: Associated Press
July 30, 2014

ALBANY, Ga. (AP) -- The trial of three people charged in a deadly salmonella outbreak linked to a Georgia peanut plant could keep jurors tied up at least two months.

U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands told several dozen people called in for jury selection Wednesday that prosecutors alone may need eight weeks to present evidence. Asked if prolonged service would be a hardship, 20 people stood up and were questioned privately by the judge and attorneys.

Former Peanut Corporation of America owner Stewart Parnell, his brother and food broker, Michael Parnell, and the peanut plant's quality control manager, Mary Wilkerson, are charged with shipping tainted peanuts and covering up lab results showing nuts tested positive for salmonella.

Nine people died and more than 700 were sickened in the outbreak five years ago.

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