Jury consultant Denise de La Rue’s expert witness report isn’t too popular with government attorneys handling a case related to an outbreak traced to peanut products. They want it tossed from the ongoing Motion 2255 proceedings to vacate Stewart Parnell’s conviction and sentencing.
In written arguments, the government says the jury expert’s report is improper under legal standards and as testimony fails to meet the required evidentiary standard.
The written arguments about the jury consultant’s report pit the same attorneys against each other as those who appeared for an in-person hearing in Albany, GA, during the last week of May.
Department of Justice trial attorney Speare I. Hodges is on the side that wants to see Parnell, the one-time chief executive of a peanut processor, remain in federal prison for the 22 years remaining on his 28-year sentence.
Atlanta appellate attorney Amy Levin Weil represents Parnell in the Motion 2255 proceeding that seeks to vacate some or all of the remaining sentence.
Prosecutor Hodges says the expert’s testimony is improper in the federal Eleventh Circuit because it goes to the “ultimate issue” of whether Parnell’s trial counsel was effective. Strategic or tactical testimony can be heard, according to Weil.
The jury expert is a Georgia-based jury consultant with extensive trial and academic credentials. She was not involved in the 2014 jury trial that convicted Parnell, his brother, and one of his quality-control staffers. Two other managers entered into plea deals with the government before trial.
Her testimony supports Parnell’s petition that he did not get effective legal counsel at trial. de La Rue said pre-trial publicity left the community bias against him, and his lawyers should have asked for a change of venue.
Jury selection allowed individuals sequestered for voir dire for questioning jurors with knowledge of the case, but Parnell’s trial attorneys were ineffective in its use. At least two jurors with knowledge of the deaths linked to contaminated peanuts got on the jury. Information about deaths in the related Salmonella outbreak was banned by the trial judge.
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