Ahead of today’s pre-trial hearing in the Peanut Corporation of American (PCA) criminal case, government attorneys took 20 pages to explain how they’ve done a good job of providing documents for the defense.
However, the defense team today wants U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands to focus on the timing of the latest discovery product — a hard drive containing 95,966 images or pages produced just two weeks before the jury trial scheduled to begin on Monday.
Athens, GA, attorney Edward D. Tolley, who represents defendant Michael Parnell, says that government attorneys have “not addressed the substance” of a joint defense motion calling upon Sands to dismiss the entire case over the late submission of the documents on the hard drive.
“The Government’s late discovery puts defense counsel in the untenable position of having less than two weeks to review at least 95,000 pages of new discovery while also preparing for trial of this case, and there, the ‘process’ of the trial is affected, i.e., the late production violates Due Process of Law pursuant to the 5th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and obviously affects ‘the assistance of counsel’ pursuant to the 6th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States,” Tolley writes.
In contrast, prosecutors assert that the government “has complied, is complying, and will comply with all its discovery obligations in these cases.” They charge that the defense team is taking a “dystopian view” of the state of discovery when just the opposite is the fact of the matter.
“This grim fiction, however, could not be further from the truth, “ writes K. Alan Dasher, assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. He contends that the government’s document submission to the defense has been “timely and comprehensive.”
While insisting the prosecution’s record on discovery is clean, the government’s trial team led by Dasher says it is ready to proceed with the trial on Monday, July 14.
“Indeed, the pressure for dismissal stems largely from Defendants’ refusal to consider whether they, independently of any action by the Government, need further time to prepare for trial,” Dasher’s response motion states.
Dasher said the government has fulfilled its obligations prior to trial, and the defense motion to dismiss the case should be denied. He says the court has plenty of other remedies if any discovery violations did occur.
Stewart Parnell, former chief executive officer of the now-defunct PCA; his brother Michael Parnell, a peanut broker, and Mary Wilkerson, quality control officer for the company’s Blakely, GA, plant are being tried in the case that began in 2013 with a 76-count federal felony indictment.
However, the government does not find another defense team remedy acceptable — excluding 26 witnesses from testifying, along with related evidence. In that instance, Dasher said the government would suffer “undue prejudice and irreparable harm.”
Among the witnesses the defense wants excluded from the trial is Dr. Ian Williams, one of the nation’s top food safety experts, who heads up multi-state outbreak investigations at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Sands has decided Stewart Parnell’s mental soundness is sufficient for the trial. The judge denied a government motion asking for the right to subject the top defendant to a mental evaluation. That motion had been hanging around ever since Parnell asked that his Virginia neuropsychologist be admitted as an expert witness to tell the jury about his alleged Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Sands ruled June 24 that testimony from the ADHD expert witness was inadmissible.
Attorneys for defendants Stewart Parnell and Mary Wilkerson also weighed in Thursday with reply briefs to the government.
“The Defendants do not seek to punish the government for its discovery abuses; rather, the Defendants seek an order of this Court to meaningfully remedy the due process violations that have already occurred and will continue to occur if relief is not provided,” they wrote.
“The government views the Defendants’ invocation of their constitutional rights as an affront to the government, because the government has seemingly forgotten that its mission is to ‘win its point whenever justice is done its citizens,’” they continued. “The Defendants in this case, no matter how much maligned by the government, Congress, and the press, are also the citizens to whom justice must be provided.”
The judge will hear arguments on the motion to dismiss the case at 10 a.m. Friday at the federal courthouse in Albany, GA.
Food Safety News