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The Barry Bonds trial starts with a snore

Mar 22, 2011, 1:30 PM EDT

Barry Bonds

I asked NBC if they’d send me to San Francisco to cover the Barry Bonds trial, live and in person. They were receptive until I started in with my accommodation demands, my per diem demands and stuff like that. Look, I may have overplayed my hand, but in my defense, I don’t get to go to San Francisco very often and if someone else is going to pay my way, I’m totally going to demand the best.

Wait. I probably shouldn’t have said that out loud. Now they’re not even going to listen to me when I ask to cover the Roger Clemens trial this summer. Oh well.

Anyway, if you’re into play-by-play live-tweeting of the trial, so far Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle appears to be your huckleberry. She had the highlights of the prosecutor’s opening statement on her Twitter feed this morning and will presumably keep it up.

Opening statements aren’t evidence and one can read too much into them, but so far it seems like the lead prosecutor is making the same mistake most lawyers make: going on WAY too long and thinking that the jury is as interested in how clever and eloquent a guy he thinks he is.  Knapp says it was 30 minutes — 30 minutes! — before the prosecutor said that Bonds lied to the grand jury.  Before that he gave what Knapp says is “a dull steroids tutorial” using the actual scientific names for various substances. Gripping!

I don’t claim to be an awesome trial lawyer myself, but I worked with (and was destroyed in court by) a number of them. And the first thing those men and women did was to tell the jury what the case was about. In simple terms. And to not get hung up on minutiae and jargon if it can be at all avoided. Which, in the opening arguments of a perjury trial, seems like it would be easy to do. Thirty minutes before mentioning that this is a perjury case? My word, if you can’t do an opening in this case — an entire opening — in less than 30 minutes what good are ya?

Oh well. Maybe things will pick up for them. Federal agent Jeff Novitzky testifies today, so that should be fun. He has made his whole career out of busting athletes, so those of you who are interested in this from the “wow, how wasteful this all is” angle should probably pay attention, because there will surely be outrage fodder for you.

  1. aaronmoreno - Mar 22, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    Of course the prosecutor has to take a half hour with his opening. This is the one that gets his name to the top of every firm’s list.

    If you had a world-record marlin on the line, you would want to take your time with it, wouldn’t you?

    • cur68 - Mar 22, 2011 at 2:25 PM

      aaronmoreno; your fish analogy reminds me of of my charter fishing excursions. I’ve had a big fish or 2 on a line before. By 30 minutes, I deeply regretted ever going fishing, my arms & back were on fire and the damn pole was doing long term damage to my prospects of fatherhood. I dare say if you can’t land your fish in 10 or 15 minutes what you are engaged in is either self torture or showing off, not fishing. Same goes for this trial.

      • Old Gator - Mar 22, 2011 at 10:09 PM

        I’ve got a great fishing joke for you. Unfortunately, I can’t print it here.

    • Roger Moore - Mar 22, 2011 at 11:02 PM

      The thing that really gets those firms’ attention is winning the case. Nobody cares how great your opening statement sounds if you don’t bring home the conviction- especially if, as Craig says, the thing that’s supposed to make it sound so great can plausibly be blamed for losing the case.

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