Jury selection begins for trial in salmonella outbreak - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Jury selection begins for trial in salmonella outbreak

The Federal Courthouse in Albany, GA The Federal Courthouse in Albany, GA
Sign at the Peanut Corporation of America Sign at the Peanut Corporation of America

Jury selection began Monday for the trial of three people accused of scheming to manufacture and ship salmonella-tainted peanuts that killed nine people and sickened more than 700.

77 potential jurors showed up Monday morning for selection. None of them made it to the questioning process at the end of the day. The selection process continues Tuesday.

The salmonella outbreak linked to peanuts processed by Peanut Corporation of America led to one of the largest food recalls in history. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 714 people in 46 states were infected between September 2008 and March 2009.

Peanut Corp. owner Stewart Parnell, his food broker brother and Georgia plant quality assurance manager Mary Wilkerson were indicted in February 2013.

Georgia plant manager Samuel Lightsey was also charged in the case and pleaded guilty in May to seven counts.

The proceedings Monday included 100,000 pages of new information on the case.

Meanwhile, Georgia Peanut commission executive director Don Koehler said he will be watching the trial closely.

"It had a phenomenal emotional impact on the industry," said Koehler, "because you have folks that really do things right and they kind of get lumped in at first."

U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands was asked by the defense team to conduct a series of pre-trial hearings before jury selection began. The hearings were held in an effort to reduce a pool of eight likely witnesses expected to be called upon during selection. Many of those witnesses were directly connected to Peanut Corp. or part of other organizations that monitor the business.

"It's a bittersweet moment, because you look at it and say, man we've got to relive this again," said Koehler. "But the fact is that the system works and I think that's what this trial is the culmination of, is that the system really does work."

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