It's Easier to Get Juries to Convict When You Don't Let Them Understand What's Going On, Raw Milk Division


Followup on the "raw milk" prosecution against Wisconsin farmer Vernon Hershberger I blogged about last week from the Daily Isthmus [link fixed]:

every time the words "raw milk" are about to come up during the proceedings, the jury is ushered out of the room. It happened Monday morning and again Tuesday afternoon.

It would be funny if conviction for Hershberger didn't mean jail time—for a father of ten children….

The state is arguing that Hershberger violated the law by selling milk (raw) while he was not licensed. But here's the problem: licensing requires that milk producers sell to a licensed processing plant. If you don't sell to a plant, you aren't licensed. At issue is not the fact that Hershberger failed to obtain a license, but that he cannot get a license, period, to sell milk because he was no longer shipping to a plant. Instead, he was attempting to sell raw milk directly to buyers or buying club "members" who had purchased shares in cows. But no one is allowed to say that.

Judge Reynolds ruled in the prosecution's favor before the trial started that there will be no discussion of whether Hershberger had criminal intent in not obtaining a license, no discussion of the safety of raw milk and no discussion even of why his farm was raided in 2010…….

A telling moment during Tuesday's testimony was when Teresa Butterworth, witness for the prosecution and employee of DATCP's Bureau of Food Safety & Inspection whose responsibility it is to license and maintain dairy farm records, could not tell the defense what dairy plants do. Lead defense attorney Glenn Reynolds (no relation to the judge): "What do dairy plants do?" Butterworth: "I don't know." Later she stated: "I just process the paperwork."

By circumscribing so narrowly the rules of engagement before the trial even began—despite the defense attorneys' best efforts—the state is counting on the jury to also just process the paperwork.

The Madison Capital Times reports on the mass public support for Hershberger.