Appellants Stewart Parnell and Michael Parnell are getting more time and a total of 3,000 additional words for their opening briefs, which are now due at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Nov. 25, in what their lawyers are calling “the most significant food safety case in the history of the United States. And its significance is matched only by its factual and legal complexity.”
The case is related to the deadly Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak traced to peanut butter from Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) back in late 2008 and 2009.
The new deadline is for all opening briefs in the cases, including the one for defendant May Wilkerson, a former PCA employee. Thomas G. Ledford, her court-appointed attorney, had asked for an extension to Nov. 18 from the original due date, which was Nov. 4.
The Parnell brothers and Wilkerson are appealing their convictions and sentences for multiple felonies stemming from the Salmonella outbreak involving PCA’s peanut butter plant in Blakely, GA. Stewart Parnell was an owner and chief executive, and his brother Michael Parnell was a peanut broker involved with PCA. Wilkerson was the company’s quality control manager in Blakely.
In making the case to extend their joint brief, attorneys for the Parnell brothers point to “a disputed evidentiary ruling that affected nearly half the evidence offered at trial.” They said they needed the additional time to finalize arguments on the “many additional significant issues in this case.”
The deadly outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium was the target of a five-year investigation led by the FBI. It finally turned into a 76-count indictment on Feb. 15, 2013, against the Parnell brothers, Wilkerson, and two other PCA managers, Samuel Lightsey and Daniel Kilgore.
The 62-year old Stewart Parnell is serving a 28-year federal prison term at Estill, S.C. His 57-year-old brother Michael is doing 20 years at federal prison at Milan, Mich. The 43-year old Wilkerson is locked up at the federal prison at Marianna, Fla. She was sentenced to five years.
The trio’s attorneys filed the appeals immediately after sentencing on Sept. 30, 2015. All three defendants sought to be released pending the outcome the appeal. All three of those requests were denied by the appellate bench.
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