“What were the key factors that swayed the Minnesota jury to acquit food club operator and farmer Alvin Schlangen three weeks ago?
Schlangen’s lawyer, Nathan Hansen, told me he thought the fact that Minnesota Department of Agriculture investigators in their courtroom testimony were inconsistent in defining “occasional” raw milk sales may have swayed the situation. One investigator said three or more purchases during any month and another said six purchases a month exceeded the bounds of “occasional”.
The MDA in its defiant statement issued immediately after the acquittals were announced September 20 suggested that the jurors agonized and could have gone either way except for some unknown arbitrary issue or another–” the fact that the jurors deliberated for as long as they did shows that they found the decision a difficult one to make.”
In fact, neither assessment is correct, according to the jury foreman, Eric Hemingway. No, the disagreement on how “occasional” was defined (the Minnesota statute limits dairies to “occasional” sales of raw milk) “wasn’t really up there” as an issue in jury deliberations, Hemingway told me in an exclusive interview.
And, contrary to the MDA assessment, the reason the jury took nearly an entire day (spread over parts of two days) was because the judge had provided highly detailed instructions for determining guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt, and we tried to be very methodical in going through his instructions.”
In the end, there were two key factors in the decision to acquit, Hemingway explained. First, the fact that no one got sick from Schlangen’s food was very important. One of the three misdemeanor charges accused Schlangen of providing “adulterated or misbranded” food, and the absence of illnesses suggested no adulteration. According to Hemingway, a Minneapolis-area investment adviser, “No one was injured…If anyone had gotten sick, that would have weighed on me.” …”