Feb 11, 2009

Manslaughter Charges for Poisoned Peanut King?

Peanut Corp. of America owner Stewart Parnell apparently sent email messages urging workers at this plant to ship peanut products laced with salmonella bacteria. So far, 9 people have died and hundreds of others have become ill as a result of eating the company's tainted peanuts.  Confronted with his own messages at a Congressional hearing on Feb. 11, 2009, Parnell declined to answer or even to apologize, and instead invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege not to incriminate himself.

If the government has evidence that Parnell (and perhaps other company officials) ordered the shipment of tainted peanuts, they should go to jail. They should be charged with "involuntary manslaughter". Involuntary manslaughter involves reckless disregard of a substantial risk that results in a person's death. That's precisely what we have here -- Parnell knew or should have known that people who eat salmonella-filled peanuts can not only become ill, they might die.

Over the last few years, we've seen a steady parade of criminally rapacious company executives willing to sacrifice their companies' and workers' futures in order to line their offshore bank accounts. Apparently, Parnell and Peanut Corp. of America have gone even further and sacrificed their customers' lives.  If that's what happened, they should be charged with manslaughter. I wonder if their prison meals will include peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?