May 17, 2011, 8:48 AM EDT
It’s not often that you see jurors from high-profile cases tracked down well after the case is over, but the New York Times has tracked down the jurors from the Barry Bonds case.
And guess what? Several of them are following the post-trial aspects of the case quite closely. And whaddaya know, four of the jurors who voted to convict Bonds on the obstruction charge are uncomfortable with their verdict:
Wolfram, 25, who works with developmentally disabled adults in Concord, Calif., said four of the jurors were unsure of the wording of that charge in the first place. She said she and those other jurors noticed that Bonds in his grand jury testimony eventually answered whether Anderson had ever injected him. But he did so a few pages later in his testimony, Wolfram said, not in the section mentioned in the charge. She said she and the other three jurors thought Bonds should not be convicted if he ultimately answered the question.
She said, however, that the jury instructions — which were pretty controversial on the obstruction point and will surely form the basis of an appeal — specifically ordered the jurors to focus only on the part of the testimony highlighted by the prosecution in the indictment, and that she and the others took that to mean that they should ignore the part of the testimony a couple of pages later when Bonds actually answered the question that was asked.
Which is nuts, of course, because the law of obstruction of justice actually cares whether justice was, in fact, obstructed. It’s not about whether a specific question was answered the second it was asked.
Of course, that’s not the only source of juror dissatisfaction. Another juror thinks Bonds is getting off too easy:
“Once the trial was over, I got on the Internet and saw how much incriminating evidence was out there that we weren’t allowed to see as jurors,” Steve Abfalter, a juror from Antioch, Calif., said. “So knowing what I know now, it would be hard to handle if the conviction was thrown out because he was obviously so guilty.”
Understandable, I suppose. But the difference there is that Mr. Abfalter was properly instructed to avoid looking at stuff on the Internet that he feels was incriminating. Because we don’t try people on the Internet, we try them in a court of law. On the other hand, Ms. Wolfram and the other three jurors who were reluctant to convict Bonds on obstruction were improperly instructed to ignore actual grand jury testimony.
In each case, however, what the jurors have to say about it is legally irrelevant. Their job in this case is done and their feelings on the matter have no bearing on what happens next.
So, what happens next? Judge Ilston will have everyone — except the jurors that is — back in court on Friday in order to see what, if anything, should be done with this verdict. Bonds’ lawyers will ask that it be set aside, but given that the reason for doing so would be rooted in their objection to the jury instructions Ilston herself gave the jury, it’s doubtful she’d actually do it. That seems to be a matter for the appeals court.
More pressing at the moment will be the decision of the prosecution as to whether to re-try Bonds on the perjury counts on which the jury was unable to reach a verdict. Also, assuming everything stands as-is, the judge will set a sentencing date for Bonds. A date which will likely be more months into the future than total time Bonds will actually be sentenced to. Which is fun.
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