Jury won’t con­sider deaths in Ga. sal­mo­nella trial

The Covington News - - THE WIRE -

AL­BANY, Ga. (AP) — Shirley Mae Almer died a few days be­fore Christ­mas in 2008 at a Min­nesota hos­pi­tal where the 72-year-old woman was al­ready weak with ill­ness when she was fed peanut but­ter con­tam­i­nated with sal­mo­nella.

Nearly six years later, a fed­eral jury is weigh­ing crim­i­nal charges against the man who owned the peanut plant blamed for pro­duc­ing tainted food that sick­ened hun­dreds across the U.S. But af­ter six weeks of trial tes­ti­mony that in­cluded nearly 50 wit­nesses and an es­ti­mated 1,000 doc­u­ments, ju­rors never heard that Almer or anybody else died af­ter eat­ing the com­pany’s peanut but­ter.

The jury re­sumed de­lib­er­a­tions in the trial of for­mer Peanut Cor­po­ra­tion of Amer­ica owner Ste­wart Par­nell and two oth­ers Thurs­day morn­ing and worked through lunch with no ques­tions for the judge or other sta­tus up­dates. Ju­rors be­gan weigh­ing ev­i­dence Fri­day af­ter­noon, but court was in re­cess ear­lier this week.

Pros­e­cu­tors say they made a cal­cu­lated le­gal de­ci­sion in keep­ing ev­i­dence of deaths off the ta­ble. Jeff Almer, whose mother was among nine peo­ple whose deaths were linked to the out­break in 2008 and 2009, said he un­der­stands that. But he still wor­ries ju­rors who sat through the long trial still don’t grasp its full im­pact.

“The de­tails and the tech­ni­cal­i­ties get to be a bit much,” Almer said. “I thought the deaths were a shock to the sys­tem and jus­ti­fied and val­i­dated ev­ery­thing.”

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