January 11, 2011
Today was Morningland Dairy’s first day in court. Getting into the court room was almost like trying to get on an airplane, except for no one ‘touched your junk’, and I didn’t see any naked scanners there. You simply couldn’t even bring in a purse, laptop, cell phone or bottle of water. The law enforcement monitoring entry seemed to ease up a bit as the day wore on, but at first it was pretty durn tense out in the entry area.
Roughly forty five people were in the audience, and it filled the little spectator’s vestibule in the Howell County Missouri Court House. The unusual number in the audience drew Judge Dunlap’s attention and he commented upon it during his opening instructions on proper court room decorum. The presence of so many people on a very cold day when all area schools were closed because of questionable roads illustrates the importance of this case to the residents of South Central Missouri.
While this is just a small update for those who have been supportive of the dairy, there is a tremendous amount of detail that was covered in the testimony given today. The majority of the day was taken up with the testimony of Gene Wiseman, Executive Secretary of the Missouri Milk Board, and Don Falls, Environmental Specialist and lead Missouri Milk Board investigator and inspector of Morningland Dairy plant.
In my opinion, Gary Cox, attorney for Morningland from Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, did a pretty good job on cross-examination. As many of you know, I have been somewhat critical of Mr. Cox in the past, and I simply want to give credit where credit is due. He did a good job today. So, a hat tip to Gary Cox is in order, and I will give it!
Wiseman stated that he ordered an embargo on Morningland Dairy’s cheese without any actual knowledge of contamination. That he had never scheduled a destruction date with Morningland, and that the State of Missouri had assumed all FDA documents, except for the one Cox showed him about investigations of dairy facilities. There is no state statute or regulation that categorically states that Missouri has accepted and adopted all FDA guidelines or standards….and the Attorney General’s office tried to disallow questioning about the FDA as hearsay. But since Don Falls worked with the FDA on their investigation of Morningland, it was allowed after all.
Judge Dunlap is rather unorthodox in his courtroom manner. Initially I thought he was entirely too helpful and lenient with the Attorney General’s office. I have never seen a Judge help to rephrase counsel’s questions after objection in the way that he did. But he showed the same latitude with Mr. Cox’s cross examination, so I think it is just his demeanor and it wasn’t apparent to me that he was showing bias in favor of the prosecution. Additionally, his questions for his clarification of the two Missouri Milk Board witnesses were germane, intelligent, and astute. So it doesn’t appear on its face that we are actually dealing with a foregone conclusion in favor of the State in this case.
All who are able to attend the trial in the morning, (9am Central) just a few hours from this writing, are encouraged to do so. While the pace of today’s proceedings seems to indicate that the trial would have to continue into Thursday, it is scheduled to wrap up on Wednesday the 12th of January, 2010. All who attended today are deeply appreciated!
I will do a more thorough overview of the court case itself in the next couple of days, but not being allowed a laptop for note taking purposes makes this part of my job a little more difficult! Just remember, if you come to the Howell County Court House, leave everything outside in your car except for your keys. You can put those in the little bucket and walk through the detector.