Tom Bonduran, Stewart Parnell's attorney speaks to the jury (Source: WALB)
Lead prosecutor Alan Dasher addresses the jury (Source: WALB)
Stewart Parnell leaves the courtroom
Michael Parnell leaves the courtroom
ALBANY, GA (WALB) -
Federal prosecutors say they have emails that prove a peanut plant linked to a deadly salmonella outbreak fabricated food-safety lab tests and knew they sold tainted peanut products.
There are indications now that the defendants may place the blame on each other.
Jurors in Albany federal court heard a two-hour opening statement from the prosecution, and testimony in the trial connected to a deadly nationwide salmonella outbreak five years ago.
Former Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) owner Stewart Parnell, his food broker brother Michael Parnell, and Georgia plant quality assurance manager Mary Wilkerson were indicted in February 2013, charged with shipping salmonella tainted peanuts and covering up lab results showing the nuts tested positive for the bacteria.
Nine people died and more than 700 were sickened in the outbreak that happened between 2008 and 2009.
The jury was sent home about 2 p.m., and will be back first thing Monday morning.
A lawyer for Stewart Parnell was the only defense team member to address the jury. In his opening statement, lead prosecutor Alan Dasher gave the jury the background on Peanut Corporation of America and the three defendants.
He's trying to prove they knew they were shipping tainted peanut products. Dasher said PCA shipped products without waiting on test results and faked certificates of analysis that customers, like Kellogg, requested with the shipment of the products.
The prosecution also says that PCA and Stewart Parnell didn't notify customers of failed salmonella tests. They brought up emails that showed Parnell told his employees "to just ship it," regardless of the lab results. In one email he said he could not afford to lose another customer.
Parnell's defense, led by Tom Bondurant, is asking the jury to keep an open mind. Bondurant says many of the emails that were shown were taken out of context, and with hundreds of emails coming in, Stewart Parnell couldn't keep up with all of them.
He painted Parnell as a small corporate owner that the big government is trying to make an example of. His defense deflected much of the responsibility to PP Sales, his brother's company, and other workers at PCA who Parnell trusted to do the work for him. Bondurant says those workers that Parnell trusted have landed him in Federal Court.
Attorneys for Michael Parnell and Mary Wilkerson declined to give opening statements Friday.
The prosecution also called Darlene Cowart to the stand. She worked at one of the labs that did tests for PCA. Her testimony will continue on Monday.