Kentucky court gags tobacco researcher, Mississippi court orders him to testify
KENTUCKY–In early December, the Kentucky Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal by former tobacco researcher Jeffrey Wigand and stayed a temporary injunction barring him from disclosing certain information designated “trade secrets.” While the Kentucky order was still in effect, Wigand disclosed information subject to the order in depositions to the Mississippi state attorney general.
The Kentucky hearing will be held before the court in mid- December, just one day before Wigand is scheduled to testify in a Department of Justice investigation concerning whether top tobacco industry officials may have committed perjury before a congressional committee last year.
The disputed testimony concerns internal company information and stems from a lawsuit brought by Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation that alleges Wigand divulged sensitive product information to the television show “60 Minutes.” Brown & Williamson has said Wigand signed non-disclosure agreements when he was employed by the company as a vice president in charge of research.
In a related case in early December, a Mississippi state trial court judge in Jackson County allowed Wigand to testify in depositions in a lawsuit filed by that state against Brown & Williamson. The tobacco company immediately filed a motion to find Wigand in contempt of the Kentucky court’s order.
Several news organizations petitioned the court to open the rest of the proceedings and unseal testimony already given by Wigand. The organizations include The New York Times, the Gannett Company, the National Broadcasting Company, Cable News Network, the American Broadcasting Companies and CBS Inc. (Brown & Williamson Tobacco v. Wigand; Counsel for Media Intervenors: H. Rodger Wilder, Gulfport, Mississippi)