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Bonds Trial Update: A very yawny Wednesday

Mar 31, 2011, 9:15 AM EDT

Barry Bonds Perjury Trial Begins in San Francisco Getty Images

It was a great day at the Barry Bonds trial if you’re into chain-of-custody testimony and talk about urinalysis.  I think that covers approximately 0.0045% of the population, and that’s a generous estimate. There are, like, three dudes, however, who love both topics so yesterday was like Christmas for them.

The day started with ballplayers at least: Marvin Bernard and Randy Velarde, each of whom testified about their Greg Anderson-supplied steroid use. There was one interesting moment when Bernard was grilled about whether he was coached by the prosecution to use the term “undetectable steroid,” which was a term he did not use in his 2003 grand jury testimony. Then he used the term “stuff.”

Bernard said he wasn’t coached, but yeah, using a precise term like that clearly would give the jury the impression that he had somewhat more precise information about what he was taking back when he played.  And that’s pretty critical given that Bonds’ testimony — and every other ballplayer’s, really — was vague about it all. But I have to ask: if everyone, back in 2003 was calling it “stuff” and didn’t really concern themselves with what, exactly, it was, doesn’t that cut against the prosecution’s case?

Velarde testified that Anderson gave him injections when they’d meet up in parking lots.  That may be the saddest, most pathetic thing I’ve ever heard. Get a room, will ya?

As for the chain-of-custody/urine testimony, the highlight was the cross-examination of IRS agent Mike Wilson, who was the one who seized the famous MLB pilot-program test samples during a raid. You know, the ones where it was later ruled that the government abused its authority in taking samples for players who were in no way associated with the BALCO investigation.  Wilson testified that he brought the urine samples home with him on an airplane, stashed in his garment bag.  So, ewww.

Today may be the last day in the prosecution’s case. There are three witnesses left: Bonds’ former personal shopper and the sister of his former lackey, Kathy Hoskins; Bonds’ orthopedic surgeon; and another urine sample analytics expert.

The key thing, though, will be something that could actually help the defense: Bonds’ grand jury testimony will be read.  As I’ve said time and again, the jury is not going to hear a lot of stark lies. At least nothing that sounds like it. They will hear confusing, multi-part rambling questions premised on scientific terms, followed by a mostly confused-sounding and often rambling Barry Bonds.

The jury doesn’t need to believe everything that Bonds says in this testimony in order to acquit him. But they do need to believe, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he lied in order to convict him.  I’ve read that testimony before and it’s about as clear as mud.  This may not go as well for them as they hoped.

  1. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 31, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    At least nothing that sounds like it. They will hear confusing, multi-part rambling questions premised on scientific terms, followed by a mostly confused-sounding and often rambling Barry Bonds.

    Maybe I haven’t looked hard enough, but you reference this a lot. What do you mean? What scientific questions did they ask Bonds and what were his mumbling responses?

    • Craig Calcaterra - Mar 31, 2011 at 9:44 AM

      I don’t have a link to the testimony (anyone?) but there were questions like “Have you ever heard of a drug called Blahblahblahniol? To which Bonds would say “erp?” Or something like it.

      More commonly, the prosecutor would go on for a while, saying “Ok, so in September 2002, you say that you were blah blah blah …” and Bonds would say “No.” And then he’d say “Wait, did you say 2002?” and a dispute would erupt about the date, and eventually Bonds would give an answer. And I’d say that 50 percent of the time it was not at all clear that he either knew what he was answering or the prosecutor knew exactly what he was asking.

      Other times Bonds would evade — and didn’t look good doing it — but the prosecutor wouldn’t focus him. “Did Greg Anderson give you injections in the Giants locker room in August 2001?” Answer: “well, we were at the ballpark, you know and …” followed by a lot of rambling by Bonds and, sometimes, but not always, an answer.

      That’s not all of it — I am prone to overstating it — but there are very few clear questions and clear answer exchanges. Sometimes Bonds did come off like a liar, such as when he was asked about syringes, but if I were the prosecutor I’d be worried about the jury being bored nor not catching the lies as they happen. I assume there will be clever use of highlighted text and stuff for this.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 31, 2011 at 10:29 AM

        I thought the whole point of a Grand Jury was to get at facts, so wouldn’t they ask direct questions? [caveat: i know the plural of anecdote isn't data] When I was before a grand jury*, everything was direct. How did you know it happened? When did you find out? etc. There wasn’t any room for “thoughts” or “ideas”, only direct responses.

        *senior year of college my apt was robbed. They found the guy because he gave one of my roommates’ cellphones to his gf. the girl lived with her grandmother, who found the phone and wondered how the girl got it. Went through the phone, saw an ID for “mom” and called it. Then called the police. Go go genius thiefs.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Mar 31, 2011 at 10:35 AM

        It normally is. But sometimes grand juries are used for PR and career-advancement purposes, and I think that was the case with BALCO. They had plenty of evidence to indict the BALCO operators and drug dealers. They wanted to parade big time ballplayers in there, however, so the cameras would capture them.

        I think the questioning reflected this. It wasn’t about getting evidence. It was about making a high profile investigation into a higher profile investigation.

  2. BC - Mar 31, 2011 at 9:41 AM

    If Bernard, Velarde and the Giambis used, what does that matter? It’s circumstantial. Unless they testify that the saw Bonds use or have something else that points to Bonds using, it’s useless evidence. As long as Anderson stays in jail and stays mum, this thing is useless. Stop wasting our time already, you’re not going to convict him. Unless there’s a bombshell out there that we don’t know about (would figure that would have come out by now, huh? It’s only been like 4 years!).

  3. chrisny3 - Mar 31, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    But I have to ask: if everyone, back in 2003 was calling it “stuff” and didn’t really concern themselves with what, exactly, it was, doesn’t that cut against the prosecution’s case?

    I think it’s clear from the testimony of the Giambi brothers and Bernard at this trial that they very well knew they were getting steroids and PEDs from Anderson. They may not have known the exact name of the steroid, but they knew it was a steroid — or HGH — and a PED. An athlete not knowing the exact pharmaceutical name won’t work against the government’s case. It’s not as if the jury is going to believe the laughable tale that anyone thought it was flaxseed oil.

    From what I’ve read, the government so far has made a strong case in incriminating Bonds.

  4. shaka49 - Mar 31, 2011 at 12:37 PM

    http://assets.espn.go.com/media/pdf/080229/022908bondsunseal.pdf

    Craig, why weren’t the lawyers asking Bonds the questions during his grand jury testimony more Mason-esqe. There was a ton of inconsistencies from page to page of his testimony.

    For instance, the lawyers asked Bonds about the regimen schedule they had in evidence, and whether or not Anderson gave him the cream, clear, blood test, whatever during the months of February or March, and Bonds was curt in his denial, explaining that he was in Spring Training, he even used the word “impossible” because “I wasn’t even here”, meaning he was in ST (pg 47 and again on pg70). But a couple of pages later, he gives testimony that Anderson would fly to ST every other weekend (pg 63)…yet there was no “gotcha” moment, or even an attempt to have Bonds clarify his prior statements.

    One would think that if the Feds were just going after BALCO, and not witchhunting after Bonds, that they might have alerted Bonds to this desprepency in his testimony right then and there, however if they were trying to “get him”, allowing him to contradict himself and keep him talking, would be a smart way to go. Either way, these lawyers look inept.

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