Scruggs team wants seed trial halted

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

Attorneys asked for a mistrial Thursday in a lawsuit that could destroy the agricultural businesses of Mitchell and Eddie Scruggs.
Ag giant Monsanto wants $10 million in damages from the Lee County businessmen and associated enterprises for their admission that they replanted the company’s patented seeds.
The courts have upheld Monsanto’s right to control how the seeds are used.
The jury trial began Monday in Greenville before U.S. District Judge W. Allen Pepper Jr. It’s on the schedule for three weeks.
Wednesday, Pepper denied the defense’s oral objections and mistrial request, saying Monsanto’s attorneys’ repeated “inflammatory references” to crimes and criminality during opening statements have tainted the jury’s ability “to consider this case fairly.”
Thursday, the Scruggs legal team officially filed a motion for mistrial, saying Monsanto’s counsel has referred to Mitchell Scruggs as a “thief,” as someone who “stole” Monsanto’s technology, as a “crook,” and as someone seeking an “alibi.”
The motion also says Pepper admonished the jury that no crime is involved in the case.
Later in the day, Monsanto’s attorneys responded, saying the objection was “untimely” two days after the remarks and do not warrant a mistrial with the judge’s warning to the jury.
This legal battle has been going on since Sept. 7, 2000, when Monsanto sued Scruggs, his brother, Eddie Scruggs, and five of their business operations.
Monsanto sought to stop the Scruggses from saving and replanting patented seeds.
Ultimately, across years of legal wrangling all the way to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and back, the defendants admitted what they had done.
Now, Monsanto wants financial damages.
Monsanto owns the patent on inserting a modified gene into crop seeds so that the plants grown from those seeds are resistant to certain herbicides and insects that feed on the plants.
When those plants produce seeds, they retain the resistance to herbicides and insects.
The company insisted that it’s invested hundreds of millions of dollars to develop the soybean, cotton and other seeds. If farmers are allowed to replant the seeds, Monsanto said, effectively, it loses control of its rights.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 687-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.